Joe Schmidt was in the firing line yesterday, after the media had several days to digest his squad for the upcoming South Africa tour. The PRO12 final was on everyone's minds, and how the Connacht back three are staying at home in the summer, while the Leinster back three were all selected.
Schmidt had a number of contentious selection calls, and he gave some reasonable explanations on all of them. Some of his reasoning made complete sense, while others asked more questions than it answered.
We're hear to decode all of the messages that Schmidt gave, and see whether he was talking bullshit or not.
Schmidt on Quinn Roux
He has been in and out with Connacht. I suppose one of the things with the four other second rows that we have picked is that they all tend to play on the loosehead side of the scrum.
Quinn was the sole tighthead scrum of the player who was fully fit and available and he has shown potential. He's a very strong scrummager, he's very strong in the lineout and if you go to South Africa you've got to be very, very good in your set-piece.
Quinn is an investment in our set-piece, it's an investment in Quinn and we're very keen for Quinn to invest in us and demonstrate what he can do for us.
There was some serious consternation that Roux was in the Ireland squad, despite not being in the Connacht 23 in the PRO 12 final. Aly Muldowney was the tighthead lock for Connacht, and the Irish qualified player is leaving for Grenoble so Schmidt was going to pick him.
Fans wanted Ross Molony or Dave Foley in the squad ahead of Roux - but Schmidt has a point. Molony, Foley, Dillane, Henderson, Ryan, and even Toner are all relatively light second rows. Having Roux in there gives Schmidt an option for some bulk in the pack that is so useful in the scrum.
Schmidt did coach Roux in Leinster where he was almost always injured. Roux was highly rated in South Africa before Schmidt brought him to Ireland. There is a sense that we haven't seen the best of the South African born lock - so maybe this will give him a spark.
So no, this is not bullshit. Besides - having another Afrikaans speaker in a tour to South Africa can't be a bad thing.
Schmidt on Tommy O'Donnell
Tommy picked up an injury at the end of the season and that's probably ok right now. Tommy was not going to be available for the full tour and as a result of that it made it a little bit complicated with Tommy.
Sean Reidy being selected ahead of Tommy O'Donnell added more fuel to the suggestion that Schmidt doesn't like O'Donnell. But knowing that the Munster flanker wouldn't be available for the third test does make a huge amount of sense for why he wasn't selected.
Schmidt on Stuart McCloskey
I've had a really good discussion with Stu and he is a guy who has picked up a couple of injuries but he is coming back to full fitness obviously.
He was fit enough to start and play in the semi-final and give a solid account of himself. It's really his first season as a starting player in Ulster and for him to be projected into a Test match at Twickenham, he's a guy who could do with a full summer and come back next season having learned a few lessons, having demonstrated a fair bit of potential at the same time.
In a time before Eddie Jones became the England manager, he once said - rookie players can't play more than five games in a row. There is an air of truth that young players need to be managed more in their first season.
Is that what Schmidt is doing with Ringrose and McCloskey? Probably. The pair started out the year in a storming fashion, but both cooled off after the Six Nations. They have big futures ahead of them, but pushed him beyond the limit with a tour to South Africa maybe isn't the best.
While McCloskey is ready and big enough for South Africa, the logic behind Schmidt's decision is sound.
Schmidt on Back Three Selections
Tiernan has had an in and out season with injury and he’s only just got back and really started to get a playing rhythm. I had a discussion with him, and think he did exceptionally well on Saturday. He’s done some very good things at the back of the season.
Niyi, this time two years ago was playing Division 1B for Trinity.
I do think that we will see some of those guys start to emerge. I think it’s one of the tough positions to make, with the likes of Keith Earls there. I thought Andrew Trimble had a really good season. I thought Luke was exceptional in that game when he came back.
It’s hard when it’s a very competitive position. I thought one of the Leinster players who did have a good game at the weekend was still Dave Kearney. He did some very good stuff. It’s a very competitive position for us.
Bullshit? Who knows?
It's hard to say. It's well known that Schmidt has certain criteria for his wing selections. Tries and X factor isn't what he's looking for. It's all about work-rate, kick-chasing and defending.
The Connacht back three, as well as being extremely exciting, have all made drastic improvement with their defensive positioning and work rate this season. Adeolokun showed some kick chase ability in scoring that try in the PRO12.
It's really hard to know with Schmidt and the back three.
Schmidt on Style of Play
Joe Schmidt says Ireland play with a similar shape to the way Connacht play. We made more passes in the 6Ns than any other team
— Rúaidhrí O'Connor (@RuaidhriOC) May 30, 2016
One stat that Schmidt loves to say at any press meeting is that Ireland pass the ball more than any other. It's his defense when the argument that Ireland are too one-dimensional comes out.
But the number of passes that a team makes has nothing to do with game plan and shape. Passing to one forward to take contact over and over will generate a lot of passes, that doesn't really threaten - as Leinster found out. In fact, Leinster had more passes (240) than Connacht did (238) in the PRO12 final - which one plays the most like Ireland?
Let's put that argument to bed please Joe.
Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile