Ireland together standing tall

Ireland’s ‘Golden generation’ have officially been knocked out of the world cup, and with it, all hopes of them fulfilling their potential have been washed away. However, Irish eyes aren’t burning too badly – John White gives an insight into why.

Firstly, I am a stauch Ireland supporter and revelled in their recent exploits in New Zealand. I didn’t have the opportunity to venture to New Zealand, but it sounds as if I wasn’t missed as the ‘Blarney Army’ made waves in The Land of the Long Cloud that will be remembered for many world cups to come. I’ve followed Ireland through the mediocrity (let’s not mention RWC 2007) and the highs (the Grand Slam and the victory over Australia to name but a few), however, I can’t bring myself to cast any aspersions, or point any fingers at any of the Irish team following our loss to Wales on Saturday. We lost to a better team on the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely gutted, and I do agree with Rory Best when he says that it was a ‘missed opportunity’ but there are a few points which also need to be underlined:

1. The value of experience is hugely important in international rugby, however, it’s the impetuousness of youth that has progressed and earned the biggest plaudits. The case in point is Wales and Australia, but most of the teams can point to the young players in their squad as the key performers. The Irish team have Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls for example. England have Manu Tuilagi. South Africa have James Hougaard. Scotland have Richie Gray. These guys are burdened with pressure and have subsequently excelled. Experience can win matches, but on the flip side, and I think this counts for Ireland, it’s always the same faces that the team turns to in times of need.

2. Irish experience steered us through the Australia game, but my feeling is that this victory was Ireland’s ‘final’. Every team has got one monumental performance in them, and unfortunately I think we peaked too early – we were like rabbits in the headlights against Wales, and it was clear that they simply wanted it more.

3. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Ireland’s pre-tournament woes were seemingly cast aside following their topping of the pool, but their lack of momentum was very apparent and it cannot be underestimated how much this contributed to their early departure

4. Strength in depth is not something that Ireland do well. We need to introduce our young tyros into the national set-up so as to develop a pool of players to call on. Why not start to bring Ian Humphreys into the frey to provide competition to O’Gara and Sexton? Rhys Priestland was probably 4th or 5th choice Wales fly-half last year, now look at him. We’re also persisting with players like Denis Leamy – a great bloke and strong player, but why not bring in someone like Rhys Ruddock who will learn more and develop into a better player with more exposure to the top level. Why persist with players like Paddy Wallace and the evergreen Gordon D’Arcy? Let’s give some more game time to the likes of Fergus McFadden and Eoin O’Malley. The same can be said across most positions, and it’s only at scrum half that Declan Kidney has started to develop – with Conor Murray showing his pedigree.

Ireland’s World Cup was a success. We banished the ghosts of 2007. We showed that we can match and beat the southern hemisphere giants. However, those ‘what if’s’ are still lingering, and for players like Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll, those ‘what if’s’ will hang over them for the rest of their days.

by John White

12 thoughts on “Ireland together standing tall

  1. Hmmm…reasonably decent article but I think you are viewing Ireland’s campaign through rose-tinted glasses

    To describe a quarter-final exit as a “success” whilst at the same time talking about a “golden generation” of players, strikes me as being contradictory

    Yes you beat Australia but how does one victory over a southern hemisphere team make a World Cup campaign a success – is that really all Ireland and their fans should be settling for?

    Surely this is part of the problem with Ireland? A lack of belief that they can win on the big stage. A tendency to over-celebrate one-off results such as beating Australia or England during the 6 nations

    Wales seem to have shrugged off this lack of self-belief. They appear to have been taking the field in this RWC with the attitude that not only can they beat anyone, but. more importantly, that they should beat anyone

    1. I think the irony is that for both Wales and Ireland this QF was the match both wanted, as both thought it their game based on pre WC form. Ireland’s shaky form had Wales licking their lips, Wales poor 6N had Ireland excited. Circumstances changed during the WC such that I suspect Ireland might have preferred to have avoided Wales in the QF. I guess if Wales win this weekend and make it to the final it will really put the Irish achievement into perspective.

      Strength in depth … it is odd to see you hold up Wales as an example of strength in depth, quoting Priestland as an example. It’s not the best example as 10 is, as is traditional for Wales, probably where we do have it. For the other positions I would say that Ireland are ahead of us in terms of depth. Bigger population (yes, it’s 3rd or 4th choice sport but the bigger population outweighs this), more money (the Irish provinces funding dwarfs that of Wales) and the luxury of being the only real professional game in town in the case Leinster gives Ireland a large professional and academy pool of players. If Wales lose Adam Jones then we are stuffed, as the 6 nations showed. We have very little depth up front, we are struggling for fit full backs and 2nd row resources are very bare beyond the three in the squad.

      I also find it odd you pick out Keith Earls as an example of success. He has no defence, and that suicidal tendency he has to run the ball out of his own 22 every single time needs to be sorted out. A few times he picked up the ball in his 22 and put it straight under the one arm, schoolboy error, the Welsh back row had a field day knowing he was never going to kick it.

  2. I tend to agree with Paolo on this one. How come Ireland’s quarter final exit is a success, and yet England go out at the same stage, having won all their group matches, just like Ireland, and everyone is calling for retirements of players and coaches. Don’t get me wrong there is a big difference between England and Ireland’s world cups (on and off the pitch). But at the end of the day, they have still both failed. A lot of the guys in that Ireland team are in the same boat as a lot of the English players, the opportunity is gone, and they blew it. I don’t see how a QF exit is a success, and how beating Australia in a group match is “their final”. If I was Irish I would be bitterly disappointed, because i think with the players they had, they have not made the most of the opportunity.

  3. I have some sympathy with this blog as at least Ireland did manage one big game in the tournament whereas England didn’t manage any, and I think that’s where the difference in perception has been for the supporters.

    Also the Irish love that underdog mentality where any win is deemed worthy of a celebration whereas the English supporters tend to demand more. I will probably be accused of blatant stereotyping by the Irish bloggers (and the English!) but I think that there is a difference in mind set between the nationalities.

    Vive la differance!

  4. I think Ireland’s RWC was infinitely more successful than England, even though they both fell at the same stage.

    A key measure that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that Ireland go home with their heads held high, the pride of their supporters for how they played and the affection of the world.

    England go home as the rabble they are, an absolute disgrace and even more despised than they ever have been by other nations and their fans (I’m still angry!)

  5. not a bad article it is quite a revelation to have a reporter be nice to a team ! but i agree with the bloggers who say that Ireland’s world cup was not a success …ask the players and coaches..irelans team did this world cup a huge favor by upsetting the normally boring predictability of the bigger nations and previous world cups !
    To see the expectation of the northern hemisphere teams rise was fantastic.
    The likes of o,Driscol and o,Connel we salute you as over the years you have given us great pleasure in the way you have played both for ireland and the lions,i just think that the timing of this world cup was all wrong for this set of players …two years ago they would have been a real threat on the world stage .
    brighty-just because we are a small country does not mean we are disadvantaged…look at new zealand…also the wru need to look at expanding there outlook with regard to player base,while we have become less parochial under first Henry and now gatland…we have stopped the funding to the Welsh exiles acedemys based all over England who do a great job of spotting welsh qualified players at a young age and yet when they are selected unless they are based in wales do not have a look in with regard to the regions or representative honours.seems to me that the youth policy of the welsh management is fantastic but could give us strength in depth if expanded… to all you english supporters give youth a chance i have been involved in county rugby for some years now and there is huge potential coming through…look out for a young lad called JAMES-LIGHTFOOT-BROWN…ENGLAND UNDER 18S..JUST SIGNED FOR EXETER CHEIFS…HE s one of a great crop of players at this age…andy farrel an example

  6. Yeah, there are more positives than negatives to take from this campaign:

    1. Ireland were beaten not just by Wales but by Gatland (a Kiwi that managed Ireland before Wales and has a deep knowledge of our more experienced players).

    2. It’s the first time Ireland won their group, and every game in it.

    3. The Italy game was essentially our first knock out match. It was a match where Ireland were struggling in the first half but shone through in the end.

    4. We have some of the best young players in Europe, in Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls and Johnny Sexton. I think we haven’t seen the best of him yet at international level. Rob Kearney is still young too, and he is a class player in my book.

    5. Given that we lost all 4 warm-up games, it was a remarkable turnaround.

    6. We did it all without David Wallace who was a big loss.

    7. We have more teen players of rugby than Scotland And Wales combined. We just have to exploit that more. Plenty for Ireland to look forward to, as long as we can beat off the nay sayers.

    1. I agree that Earls and O’Brien are excellent players. But Kearney in my opinion is shite! Instead of Heads up rugby he plays heads down rugby. He makes a strong run doesn’t link with the other backs or wings because he doesn’t know where they are. He goes to ground and recycles slow ball. He is a strong lad, strong runner, big boot but doesn’t link and never rarely runs good supporting lines. His allround game is poor. Heaslip is another poor player. How many times did he carry from the back of a scrum? Put O’Brien at 8 and let Heaslip reinvent homself as a 7 just like Wallace had to do at Munster when Foley had the no. 8 shirt nailed down. And if Heaslip can’t do that then good luck to him.

  7. I really don’t understand the love for Keith Earls. I with Brighty on this – his defence is lacking and he doesn’t have the vision to see when a counter-attack is on or when it isn’t

    I struggle to think of any time I’ve seen him play well internationally. To me, Trimble seems a much better player

    1. I think Trimble is better too, but he was never really given a chance. Earls is lacking in some departments and I hope someone better comes along in the next few years. However, Earls is still quite young, unlike Trimble. Kidney made some bad calls, and these were only really highlighted against Wales, because we lost that game. He made bad calls in the USA and Russia games too. I really want Leinster’s Joe Schmidt to step in and take the reigns and I’m not the only one. He’s exactly the kind of coach we need, and he knows Irish rugby better than anyone right now. Ireland has a selection dilemma with Leinster, Munster, and even Ulster to an extent. Schmidt would end all that nonsense.

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