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Provincial Squads - Categorising Players

  • 27-03-2023 1:10pm
    Posts: 0

    Post 1/6

    I tried to assess the 4 domestic provincial squads a slightly different way than usual - by breaking down players in tiers or groups. It definitely needs some refinement, but for now, I settled on 9 Groups, as follows (brackets after explains my thinking on the grouping):

    -World Class (amongst the best 3 or so in the world in his position)

    -Elite International (just below World Class level)

    -Proven International / European Cup level - (high quality international or European Cup performer)

    -Top URC Level player (one of the better players in the URC, consistent high quality performer at this level)

    -Past His Best (self explanatory, for guys who were hard to quantify)

    -Squad Player (self explanatory, not a youngster, but not a top level URC player or better)

    -High Potential Youngster (self explanatory, must be 24 or younger, potential future international player)

    -Unknown Prospect (young player, defies classification, not deemed high potential, typically hasn't played enough for better classification)

    -Substandard (self explanatory)

    I attempted to err on the side of positive on classifying players, giving them the benefit of the doubt. I also didn't want to unduly classify a young player in particular as substandard, particularly one who hasn't played much.

    Following four posts reflect my interpretation of the 4 domestic squads on this metric:



  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Leinster -

    World Class - 9/44 (20%) - Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan

    Elite International - 4/44 (9%) - Ronan Kelleher, James Ryan, Jamison Gibson Park, James Lowe

    Proven International / European Cup level - 3/44 (7%) - Ryan Baird, Jason Jenkins, Jack Conan

    Top URC Level Player - 12/44 (27%) - Ross Molony, Will Connors, Max Deegan, Scott Penny, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Ciaran Frawley, Charlie Ngatai, Michael Ala'alatoa, Rhys Ruddock, Jimmy O'Brien, Jordan Larmour

    Past His Best - 2/44 (5%) - Cian Healy, Dave Kearney

    Squad Player - 2/44 (5%) - Ed Byrne, Tommy O'Brien

    High Potential Youngster - 5/44 (11%) - Michael Milne, Joe McCarthy, Harry Byrne, Jamie Osborne, Liam Turner

    Unknown Prospect - 4/44 (9%) - Tom Clarkson, Brian Deeny, Martin Moloney, Cormac Foley

    Substandard (3/44) - 7% - Vakh Abdaladze, Tadhg McElroy, Nick McCarthy

    Obviously this is a subjective exercise, and others will disagree with some of my rankings. I think you could argue for a few players being a tier higher (James Ryan on his 6N form, Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O'Brien also prob deserve to be a tier higher IMO). I gave the benefit of the doubt to young players like Clarkson and Moloney, though I think you could make an argument Clarkson has looked substandard to date.

    Overall, It highlights the real strength of Leinster's squad - elite world class talent backboned by a lot of top quality URC players, with a good smattering of high potential younger players too.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Munster -

    World Class - 1/45 (2%) - Tadhg Beirne

    Elite International - 2/45 (4%) - Peter O'Mahony, RG Snyman

    Proven International / European Cup level - 3/45 (7%) - Gavin Coombes, Conor Murray, Andrew Conway

    Top URC Level Player - 6/45 (13%) - Dave Kilcoyne, Jean Kleyn, John Hodnett, Craig Casey, Antoine Frisch, Calvin Nash

    Past His Best - 3/45 (7%) - Malakai Fekitoa, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo

    Squad Player - 11/45 (24%) - Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron, Niall Scannell, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O'Donoghue, Joey Carbery, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly, Mike Haley, Liam Coombes, Roman Salanoa

    High Potential Youngster - 7/45 (16%) - Keynan Knox, Thomas Ahern, Edwin Edogbo, Alex Kendellen, Paddy Patterson, Jack Crowley, Ben Healy

    Unknown Prospect - 6/45 (7%) - Paddy Kelly, Eoin O'Connor, Jack Daly, Josh Wycherley, Scott Buckley, Jack O'Sullivan

    Substandard (6/45) - 13% - Stephen Archer, Liam O'Connor, Chris Moore, Neil Cronin, Oli Morris, Dan Goggin

    Once again - subjective exercise. I think at his best you could argue for Snyman to be world class, but missing so much time I think he's best placed where he is. I've also probably been charitable to Conway with his classification, given how much time he's missed.

    A lot of high potential youngsters to get excited about that should form the backbone of the next 5 years for Munster - maybe some Munster fans would argue I'm being overly harsh on Josh Wycherley, Scott Buckley and Jack O'Sullivan by not including them in the high potential group, but I don't see any of the three as potential future internationals at this point.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Ulster -

    World Class - 0/49 (0%) -

    Elite International - 0/49 (0%) -

    Proven International / European Cup level - 4/49 (8%) - Rory Sutherland, Rob Herring, Iain Henderson, Stuart McCloskey

    Top URC Level Player - 11/49 (22%) - Marty Moore, Tom O'Toole, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Nick Timoney, John Cooney, James Hume, Rob Baloucoune, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison, Michael Lowry, Kieran Treadwell,

    Past His Best - 3/49 (6%) - Jordi Murphy, Duane Vermeulen, Ian Madigan

    Squad Player - 10/49 (20%) - Eric O'Sullivan, Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Sam Carter, Marcus Rea, Billy Burns, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Rob Lyttle, Alan O'Connor

    High Potential Youngster - 5/49 (10%) - Tom Stewart, David McCann, Nathan Doak, Stewart Moore, Jude Postlethwaite

    Unknown Prospect - 10/49 (20%) - Callum Reid, Cormac Izuchukwu, Sean Reffell, Michael McDonald, Angus Curtis, Jake Flannery, Ben Moxham, Aaron Sexton, Shea O'Brien, Ethan McIlroy

    Substandard (6/49) - 12% - Gareth Milasinovich, Declan Moore, Frank Bradshaw Ryan, Greg Jones, Matthew Rea, Dave Shanahan

    Once again - subjective exercise. You can clearly see how form has impacted this selection. I don't think anyone belongs in the top two tiers (though obviously Duane Vermeulen once would have), but there is an argument that in recent years the form from guys like Timoney, Hume, Baloucoune, Stockdale and Lowry might have notched them a tier higher.

    I haven't seen enough of some of the young players (and some of them haven't gotten a lot of minutes), so open to correct from Ulster fans if you think I'm being overly harsh on some guys.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Connacht -

    World Class - 0/45 (0%) -

    Elite International - 0/45 (0%) -

    Proven International / European Cup level - 3/45 (7%) - Finlay Bealham, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen

    Top URC Level Player - 7/45 (16%) - Conor Oliver, Cian Prendergast, Caolin Blade, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Tom Farrell, John Porch

    Past His Best - 1/45 (2%) - Tiernan O'Halloran

    Squad Player - 13/45 (29%) - Jack Aungier, Denis Buckley, Peter Dooley, Dave Heffernan, Oisin Dowling, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler, Shamus Hurley Langton, Josh Murphy, Tom Daly, Adam Byrne, Alex Wootton

    High Potential Youngster - 7/45 (16%) - Dylan Tierney Martin, Niall Murray, Darragh Murray, Cathal Forde, David Hawkshaw, Shane Jennings, Diarmuid Kilgallen

    Unknown Prospect - 8/45 (18%) - Jordan Duggan, Sam Illo, Ciaran Booth, Oisin McCormack, Colm Reilly, Shayne Bolton, Byron Ralston, Oran McNulty

    Substandard (6/45) - 13% - Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Shane Delahunt, Grant Stewart, Sean Masterson, Conor Fitzgerald.

    Final time - subjective exercise. Lack of top tier talent, but a high concentration of good URC players and squad players.

    The real impact will come from whether or not the grouping of unknown prospects show enough to be better than they have looked so far.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Overall, of the 183 players split across the four provincial squads, I have 10 classified as World Class (5% overall), whereas 21 are classified as Substandard (11%).

    I know it's far from a perfect method of comparing and contrasting the squads and their depth, but would be interested in what some other posters consider of this as an approach.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 7,957 ✭✭✭connachta

    For Connacht

    Now Hansen, only 24, is knocking on "elite international" category

    Thornbury is Top URC player

    Forde is no more a prospect but already a squad player and not far from Top URC player (TBC).

    You forgot to name N.Murray (in this category).

    Balance is better looking for Connacht my way. Your rest of the list is ok!

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,494 ✭✭✭arsebiscuits1

    Interesting exercise. I'm sure this will be a place for many constructive takes...

    Overall I agree with where you've placed players.

    My largest bugbear would be the disparity between Proven international/ European Level and Top URC Level player.

    I think the gap between these is quite large so players that could be considered middle top of them are getting seeded lower.

    Players like Tom O'Toole, Treadwell, Timoney, Killer, Frisch, Ross Byrne, Ala'alatoa, Larmour are all probably fair to rank them in the 4th tier of players based on your criteria, but with a slight different criteria all could and should be in the next tier up.

    Actually as I write it ima double down on Ross Byrne lol. He's started multiple European games of note including knock outs and succeeded and is just off the back of deputising extremely well in a Grand Slam campaign. Man should be one rung further up the ladder imo.

    Aaaaaaaand just to be extra pedantic (but also because I've been a fan of him for years) I think TOB should be a tier higher also. If not for his ACL injury he'd have been on the pitch for a European semi final. And was there on form not due to a significant injury crisis.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    My largest bugbear would be the disparity between Proven international/ European Level and Top URC Level player. I think the gap between these is quite large so players that could be considered middle top of them are getting seeded lower.

    Definite agreement on this - it's the portion of the list I struggled most with. Most of the guys you named actually I originally had a tier higher, and then reassessed.

    On TOB - I'm sky high on him and his potential - and tbf he's young enough that I could have just left him in the high potential youngster category. But to me he's just missed too much time to have him any higher right now.

    I'm going to revisit this classification at the end of the season, and, I'm also going to consider doing it for the Leinster squad over the last couple of years to compare the relative quality across different teams.

  • Posts: 0 ✭✭✭✭[Deleted User]

    I see the baba isn't getting a look in.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Post edited by Mike on

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,222 ✭✭✭Paul Smeenus

    Seems all over the shop to me.

    Tom O'Toole is a high level URC player? He has 10 caps (like Baird),and just played every single match in the 6N but Gavin Coombes (2 caps) is a Proven International?

    Treadwell, Hume, Timoney, Stockdale are top URC level, instead of European level? And elsewhere, if Ross Byrne, Ireland's de facto back up ten, was merely top URC level, we'd be on a hiding to nothing. As someone who's not a massive fan of his, I would certainly say he has proven he is better than that in this last 6N. I'd also hold off declaring Snyman still an Elite International until we see whether he reaches previous heights.

    Think the problem is your categories. You've really focused on sub-dividing the top ten percent of players and then just run out of steam.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭ulsteru20s

    I’d put McIlroy and Izuchukwu in high potential for us. I’d have Iain Henderson in elite international still. I would not define McCann as high potential but i guess there isn’t really a category that fits for him. Squad player?

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Tom O'Toole had a really good 6N, but he still only played 120 minutes. He showed really well in the French game, but also wasn't asked to scrummage that day. He's obviously a guy with scope to keep moving higher, but I wouldn't have any issue ranking Gavin Coombes as a tier higher than him right now. Just comparing their caps doesn't really reflect on the fact that there is an absolute paucity of THPs, whereas we're stacked at No 8 arguably. O'Toole isn't a nailed on starter for Ulster, whereas Coombes is amongst Munster's best players.

    I mentioned in my comment on the Ulster one that the bulk of those players you listed (Hume, Timoney, Stockdale etc) likely would all be a tier higher if this exercise was being undertaken 12 months ago, but I think they're all fairly ranked based on their performances this season.

    Creating the categories is difficult, and it isn't necessarily a tier either in all cases. IMO it's better to be a High Potential Youngster than a Squad Player, despite being a notch lower. If this exercise was being undertaken in previous years plenty of guys like Hugo Keenan, James Ryan, Andrew Porter etc would have skipped straight from High Potential to possibly European Cup / International quality immediately.

    Yeah, I struggled a bit on McIlroy. He's only 22 tbf to him, but I just haven't seen enough spark from him to suggest his ceiling is international level so far, so I left him in the 'unknown prospect' tier, but granted Ulster fans will have a better view on him than I would. On Izuchukwu, I think he's been a relatively disappointing prospect so far. The raw physical ability is there unquestionably, but he hasn't pressed on at all and recently turned 23. He looks to be well behind Harry Sheridan (2 and a half years his junior) now in the Ulster pecking order. On David McCann, I like him as a player, think he has a good physical skillset, but yeah, once again, Ulster fans will have a clearer view than me on his potential.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,759 ✭✭✭Brief_Lives

    this is a great thread... well done for putting the work in... I woiuldn't be as familiar with all the squads...

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Another way of looking at this, is I've ranked Timoney, Treadwell, Hume etc at the same tier as guys like Will Connors, Ross Byrne, Rhys Ruddock, Jean Kleyn etc, and a tier below guys like Henderson, McCloskey, Bealham, Hansen, Conan and Murray. I don't think that's an objectionable take in my opinion, but as I said, I expect fans of every province will quibble a bit with the rankings.

    Some of these Ulster lads have a big chance to prove me wrong this week...

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,212 ✭✭✭Former Former Former

    It's an interesting way to look at things. I think you could cut down the number of categories and still get the same result.

    The 'past his best' category doesn't fit really, like Cian Healy is definitely past his best, but still the second-best in his position in the country, likewise Duane Vermeulen doesn't belong in the same category as TOH or Zebo.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,222 ✭✭✭Paul Smeenus

    Fair enough, but O'Toole's a proven European level player. Conflating Proven International with European level is the biggest issue - those are arguably two completely different tiers. I'll be honest, if Jenkins belongs in that tier, I'd argue a fair few other players do.

    Fair play to you for doing all the work, and I understand Ulster's issue with form but that apart, it still seems like it's curated to split hairs in giving titles to our best international players (World Class or merely Elite?) rather than honestly assess the majority of each provinces' players.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,222 ✭✭✭Paul Smeenus

    I don't mean to be a knob, by the way. There's a lot of hard work gone into that! Just think you need to rethink your categories.

    The top two tiers might be most important to Leinster fans, but for those of us who support other provinces, the flaws further down the categorisations stick out a bit.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,222 ✭✭✭Paul Smeenus

    Well, there you go. Should Ruddock be in the same tier as Treadwell, Prendergast or Casey? I'd argue not at all.

    Again, nor should Ross Byrne, lest you think it's an anti-Leinster thing.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Yeah, that's definitely a fair call out. If I was to redo I would recut the categories and reorder some of them (switch squad player with High Potential Young player etc). I really struggled to rank those guys in the past their best category.

    I think what seems to be causing the most issues is the names I've put on the tiers. If i was to redo, I would just number the tiers.

    It's all highly subjective, but I don't think Tom O'Toole is unfairly ranked in the fourth tier. Prior to the 6N he likely would have been in the 6th tier. He's a young player with obvious potential to keep getting better.

    If you just think of it as numerical tiers, as a way to compare the four provincial squads, this is how they stack up:

    To me, this is the relatively interesting analysis.

    Equally, when I go back through the last 8 seasons or so for Leinster, you can see the squad development in action IMO. A very high amount of guys classified as High Potential in c. 2019-2020 converted into Tier 3 players or better. I think it would also support a view that the team in 2015/16 was objectively poorer, containing 8 players I would deem Tier 9 or substandard, and 0 Tier 1 players at that time.

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  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Nah, look I've no issue and expected people to take issue with some of the classifications.

    But it's very hard to fit everyone into a bracket. Ross Byrne might be ranked a tier too low, but I'm trying not to be overly skewed by recency bias.

    As I mentioned above, I think it's better to ignore the titles on the tiers and then just assess on that basis.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,759 ✭✭✭Brief_Lives

    For Munster I would move John Hodnett, Craig Casey, Antoine Frisch, Calvin Nash, Jack Crowley up to Proven International/European cup level. Also probably Joey and Salanoa too..

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,118 ✭✭✭sprucemoose

    is porter world class? id think elite would be a more suitable one for him

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,212 ✭✭✭Former Former Former

    Of those, only Casey and Carbery would remotely fit that bill.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭ulsteru20s

    Porter would be in my consideration for best irish player so i’d have him as world class.

    I’d have Kelleher as world class as well.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,637 ✭✭✭irelandrover

    So you'd have two Irish hookers in the top 3 hookers in the world?

    Very interesting analysis, hard to argue with anything really there from a munster point of view. I'd have Casey and Coombes in the same tier, probably in tier 3.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,118 ✭✭✭sprucemoose

    world class would imply being one of the top few (2 or 3) players in the world, i dont think kelleher is that just yet

    porter is an elite player but again, i dont think hes at that top tier.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭ulsteru20s

    I did not read the criteria close enough lol. I’d push henshaw down to elite as well then. Also, push JGP down one level. Honestly maybe James Ryan down one also.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭ulsteru20s

    Yea, agree to disagree on porter. I think he’s our best player. He is unbelievable in the loose.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,396 ✭✭✭Wegians89

    Would probably promote Mack to Elite International. Nominated for six nations player of the year. Has 3 man of the match awards in 9 six nations matches. 6 tries in 14 caps isn’t the worst considering you’ve France twice, All black twice and south Africa in there.

    Would add Illo to high potential youngster. Would probably look to promote Niall Murray too, he’s been brilliant this season, up there with the best lineout operators already in the URC.

    Think Tom Daly, Adam Byrne and Wootton are all past their best too.