Ireland still a mile off the pace

I won a modest sum of money on this. Very modest. But between the rain chucking down in New Plymouth and an Irish side with no form, and short on fitness, the handicap of US plus 30 points was too good to pass up. For those of you who don’t waste your cash on these things, it meant the Yanks could lose by 29 points and those of us who backed them would collect.

When Tommy Bowe got over in the last play of the first half I braced myself to wave goodbye to the few bob. Then himself and Rory Best touched down again in the space of three minutes in the third quarter, and we reckoned they would gallop away beyond the 30 point gap.

If they had either form or fitness they would have, but Ireland haven’t had form since the Grand Slam season in 2009. Form means stringing good games together.Ireland have played 10 Tests this year, and played well in one of them – againstEngland in March.

As for fitness, the irony in putting so much effort into micro managing the players all season only to see them drop like flies at the key moment, is rich. Jamie Heaslip was saying afterwards that he felt much better for the experience, and that with only a game and a half under his belt coming into this Test, he’ll be all the better for it on Saturday.

 I hope so, because currently he is well removed from the go-to character who stormed onto the international stage two years ago. We’ve gone from having a clatter of top quality back rowers to having ones who are either unfit or out of form. And if we were going to start turning that form around then unloading on the Yanks was the least of it.

The demeanour of Declan Kidney and Brian O’Driscoll at the press conference was ominous. So was the words they were using. Stuff about lapses in concentration. Players not being clinical when they need to be. Lacking patience and accuracy. Knowing what needs to be fixed and being able to fix it…..

 You could take these comments and match them up with the stuff coming out after any of the Six Nations games, bar the England win. There are changes that will help: Kearney (for Murphy), Trimble (for Earls) and McFadden (for D’Arcy) behind the scrum; O’Gara for Sexton; O’Brien and Healy (if they are fit) and Flannery back into the pack. You could easily justify all of these calls but I don’t believe that even the best selection from this group will be able to make up all the ground that has been lost since Ireland last had form.

It will be good to get on the road to Auckland tomorrow and leave behind the woeful weather of New Plymouth. Maybe the change will have a dramatic and positive effect.


About Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning has been involved in rugby all of his life as a player, coach and journalist. He has been rugby correspondent on the Sunday Independent since 1996, and has been reporting on the game since the mid 1980s when he stopped playing with Clontarf. In 2007 his book From There to Here, a definitive account of Ireland’s transition from amateur to professional rugby, was published to critical acclaim.
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2 Responses to Ireland still a mile off the pace

  1. Every paper in the world has positive headlines about Ireland’s win today, except the Irish papers. What does that say? We won, never looked like losing, scored three tries. Next.

  2. Brian Hand says:

    It was tough to watch on TV but at least it wasn’t raining! And the full Irish helped me through the 2nd half. I did get the impression that Johnny Sexton’s head is not in the right place. At Leinster he knows he is No 1 and I would presume gets told it on a regular basis. I guess Deccy doesn’t treat him or tell him he’s his No 1 and it seems to affect him. As much as it pains me to say it but O’Gara to start vrs the Aussies. BOD doesn’t look fit. Actually the whole backline looked off the pace. Very few decoy runs or runners. I’d say the Italian pack are licking their lips…….I hope you get to make that speech!

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