New talent badly handled says Wood
January 21, 2008
Former Ireland captain Keith Wood believes Brian O'Driscoll's team mis-managed the blooding of new players in the build-up to the disappointing display at the World Cup.
Wood cited a lack of experienced alternatives in the tournament in France as "one of the failures of Ireland's campaign".
"You'll never really know if the guys are up to it until they get a chance," Wood, the former Harlequins and Munster hooker who won 58 Ireland caps, told BBC Sport.
"It's a difficult route but you have to give them game time at some stage."
Wood does not advocate a clear-out, however, nor expect coach Eddie O'Sullivan to make major changes to the team that failed to get out of their group in France.
"We haven't had the strength in depth in Ireland but what used to me annoy me was when we'd play, say, Canada in an autumn international and we'd change 12 guys, which is unfair on those coming in.
"You want to try to blood them one at a time, with the experienced guys beside them."
The 33-man Ireland training squad announced last week featured young props Cian Healy and Tony Buckley, although neither are regular starters for Leinster and Munster respectively.
Wood is unhappy with the established back row trio of Simon Easterby, David Wallace and Denis Leamy, the latter playing at blindside for Munster of late rather than the No.8 spot he occupies for Ireland.
"I would say our balance has been wrong in the back row for a while," Wood said.
"I think we need an out-and-out seven and eight. At the moment we are playing a mixture of them, and we don't have a huge amount of height in the back row.
"At times I would still like to see Alan Quinlan get the nod. He is such a nuisance to play against. He is a tall guy, an excellent line-out forward and he is very aggressive."
Wood was not bullish about Ireland going to Twickenham - where they won in 2004 and 2006 - for this season's concluding match against England with a chance of claiming a first Championship title since 1985.
"I'd be surprised," Wood said. "I suppose it could happen but there is no carry-over of momentum from the World Cup to suggest that might be the case."