12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
But consider for a moment the task that faces the various scribes tasked with this responsibility.
They have to analyse the individual performance from one to fifteen and give marks out of ten, and as well as that, they also have to file a match report. Now that's a lot of watching and weighing and whatever about the boys who do it for the Monday editions - they can pore over the video on the day of rest - the Sunday scribes have tight Saturday night deadlines to work to.
Still, you'd expect........
Neil Francis and Stephen Jones sat quite close to each other on Saturday in the quaint and crammed press box in Lansdowne Road. Both had unrestricted view and both were well acquainted with the normal practice of Irish players wearing green ganzies and the French in blue. And (sacre-bleu), here is what the pair of them came up with in their Player Ratings.
NF: They shut him (Brian O'Driscoll) down with savagery, but he responds the only way he can. His defensive capability in this match was sensational and on occasions he had to take a couple of chances. SJ: This was the talented man (Brian O'Driscoll) at his least effective, as a kicker and basher.
NF: Ran as straight as he (Kevin Maggs) could and barrelled Les Bleus. Everything he does on the pitch says he's a winner. SJ: Surely we should have seen him (Kevin Maggs) more in his element taking the ball up and recycling quickly. We hardly saw him at all, and that was a waste.
NF: (Denis Hickie) worked very well in concert with his back three. Space was at a premium but he never managed to work any of those meandering counter attacks, the long kick back being team policy and shrewerer option. SJ: Entirely ineffective.
NF: (Peter Stringer) tremendous performance to unsettle the link between Imanol Harinordoquy and the French scrum-half.... did brilliantly to recover when the French broke down the left-hand side in the last few seconds of the game. SJ: (Peter Stringer) No force at all.
But where were you Stephen when Franno was noting his 'tremendous performance' etc ? Sorry, I digress
NF: (Shane Byrne) unbelievably consistent. SJ: (Shane Byrne) not one of his best days.
NF: (John Hayes) The cornerstone of the pack... An excellent scrummaging performance. SJ: The great tighthead props of the era get themselves on the ball and into the game far more frequently than Munster monster.
NF: My Man of the Match (Anthony Foley). SJ: (Anthony Foley) Another to leave his best form in the dressing apparently.
Ah come on did they agree on anything at all ?
Well, yes. They both thought Malcolm O'Kelly was excellent. Mind you marks out of ten for O'Kelly ? NF:10 SJ: 7. Seven was the highest rating Mr Jones gave any Irish player.
Oh and then there was agreement on the performance of Marcus Horan.
Stevie (Wonder) Jones said Horan gave " a thoroughly decent effort," that he was "not overwhelmed in the scrum" and actually "popped up well in the loose." - Jolly good Stephen, the lad will be chuffed.
And Franno ? "Credit where it's due, it was put up to the kid and he performed - no question about that. He was never under any pressure at scrum time and managed to effect a number of quality pick and drives through the middle.
A week ago, Franno had this to say about Marcus Horan's place in the Irish side.
"I'm a little worried about the left hand side of the scrum. When the attrition rate goes over 100 degrees the poorer players are found out. Gary Longwell has done reasonably well so far but Marcus Horan is not the right stuff. His Shannon teammate John Hayes assuredly is, so surely the several seasons that they've played together would have given him some notion of what is required." He wound up that piece with the following. "Why do I single out Horan ? Because after defence the battle between packs is vital. Ireland can't afford to operate with only seven willing souls in a match of this intensity."
Neil Francis was a fine athlete. When he talks about how difficult it is for a side to operate with only "seven willing souls." He knows what he's talking about. Ireland did it often enough between the years 1987-1996.