Despite the excellent form of players like Frank Roche, James Blaney, Gordon McIlwham and Trevor Hogan in recent games, the front five was always going to read - Marcus Horan, Frank Sheahan, John Hayes, Donncha O Callaghan and Paul O Connell. With Denis Leamy unavailable it left Gaffney with the enviable task of choosing from Jim Williams, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace and Anthony Foley for the three back-row positions. Then of course there was the unenviable task of informing the unlucky one.
At the team announcement in the Sofitel Hotel on Thursday afternoon, when asked by Irish Examiner journalist Charlie Mulqueen, what difficult decisions he had to make Gaffney s immediate response was.
The back-row, always is Charlie. We ve run with Jimmy, Wally and Anthony Foley and left Quinny on the bench. And that s tough on a player of Quinny s ability. But then again it s great to have him (Quinlan) as back-up although I know he is, understandably enough, disappointed not to be starting.
Again in the absence of John Kelly, a fit again Anthony Horgan was always going to be a shoo-in for one of the wing berths and once Gaffney opted for Shaun Payne at 13 ahead of Mike Mullins - another call the coach identified as being a tough one - Mossy Lawlor saw off the challenge of Paul Devlin for the other wing position.
As to their well-being being Gaffney says We re pretty much in form. We didn t play as well as we would have liked last week but at least we re creating opportunities. There s a great buzz in the camp at the present time with the nationals now back. Last season we were in a situation where the internationals were coming back on the back of us losing a number of Celtic League games in a row. But at this point in time we won the last four in a row without them and they re coming into a camp that s buzzing at the moment. We only had the two training sessions this week but there was a great buzz, everyone s committed to the cause whether they re in the 22 or not. I mean the contribution of the 37 or 38 players at the squad session yesterday was immense. So it s great from a squad point of view .