Rugby World Cup: Irelandwatch Episode 1

Over the next few weeks we’ll be keeping a close watch on goings on in the Ireland camp.  This week brought the news that Kidney and his management team (bar Gaffney, who is going home to Australia after the RWC) have been rewarded with a new two-year contract on the eve of the World Cup.  We can’t help but be reminded of the similar decision in 2007 when Eddie was given a four-year deal, only for a disastrous tournament and subsequent Six Nations to beset the team.  So, we are down from four years to two – is this a case of learning by degrees for the IRFU?

In a sense, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  Give the contract, and we are all wincing as we recall Eddie’s Four More Years.  Don’t give it, and the question of the coaching team’s futures will follow them around the tournament.  But casting a glance around the other World Cup hopefuls, it does look as though discretion is considered the better part of valour: of the teams with ambitions of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup (which we claim to have) none of South Africa, France, England or New Zealand have offered their coach a contract beyond the World Cup – only Australia have made the commitment.

One comment from IRFU chief exec Philip Browne did cause us concern: he cited the ‘significant progress in the last two years in terms of results’.  Come again?  Ireland have won three from five in those two distinctly mediocre Six Nations chamionships and two from four in the November Internationals.  Pull the other one – our standards are much higher now – with four 6N wins and a big Southern Hemisphere scalp a minimum requirement.

What’s most worrying is the fear that the 2007 parallels could start to stack up over the coming weeks.  There’s more than a touch of Eddie about Deccie’s idiosyncratic team selections and excessive loyalty to certain players, as well as his lack of enthusiasm for using his bench.  Throw in a more than likely lopsided squad without a single openside and you might think Eddie was still there, pulling the strings behind the scenes.

But these fears need to be counter-balanced by the fact that Deccie’s management style couldn’t be more different to Eddie’s.  He’ll empower the players rather than dictate and, crucially, he looks set to get the physical side of preparation right.  Ireland were woefully underooked in 2007, but with five games in August, four against test level opponents, there is no chance of that this time around.  He’ll have them almost feral by the time we take the pitch against Australia in Auckland.  Let’s try to keep the faith for now.



  1. Check Out Rugby World Cup 2011 schedule, dates and more details here – Rugby World Cup 2011

  2. I have a theory that we are all so mentally scarred from the previous world cup experience that we are mortally afraid that we might include any aspect of the '07 preparation again.This however does not mean we will hit the jackpot with this tournament's preparations.I get this feeling particularly with the number of warm up games. The current wisdom says: "Last time too few games = bad preparation, so this time play loads will automatically = good." I just think we've swung a bit far the other way and a few injuries may well change people's minds. It is also true of Eddie O'Sullivan control freak = bad, Deccie empowers players = good. A bad world cup and we will all be crying out for someone who isn't the player's friend.Basically my feeling is that when things go right you have seldom prepared everything perfectly and when things go wrong not everything in the preparation is kack. The biggest thing I like about Deccie is that he has said as much when things were at their best. Following Ireland over the years it has always been such: when we expect to get stuffed – heroes emerge, when we expect big things… know the rest. We weren't as good or as bad as we appear on each occasion.This has now changed via the players, the provinces and the coaching set ups.This is why I'm glad the IRFU showed the confidence to sign up the management team until two years out from the 2015 tournament. It will maintain continuity if things are going well and if it genuinely is time for a fresh start in 2013, then a new management team will have a chance to get things together for 2015. Into the bargain, I do not doubt there would have been long line of suitors for the incumbent coaches should Ireland have started to drag heels.

  3. I like the PTSD thing – and its probably true!I don't doubt that Deccie et al are currently the best men for the job, but its the timing – you can't blame Deccie for taking whats on offer, but it smells a bit too much of the amateur-era disdain for the RWC i.e. no professional tournament will dictate our schedule. Its like when Eddie used to get 6N to 6N contracts.And the attitude to 7s is similar – now I don't think a whole lot of 7s as an offshoot of union, but it's in the Olympics and it's a way of broadening the sports' appeal. The IRFU are just ignoring it and hoping it goes away. I mean *Portugal* are better than us at it! No offence to Portugal, and its great to see different countries getting involved, but come on…

  4. Couldn't agree more with you about the 7s. I know it wouold impact the distribution of $$s to the provinces, but surely the IRFU are charged with developing the general health of rugby nationally as well as being guardians of the traditional structures?It is not hard to imagine 7s helping to increase participation in rugby nationally. I can see it specifically as a way of tapping into the large GAA talent base, especially in Ulster where GAA players by and large have no contact with any rugby whatsoever. Obviously at the elite end supporting an Irish team at the olympics would hardly be a negative thing.Its all very well running rugby as a business but you get the impression of protectionism around the IRFU attitude to 7s, which works in the short term for the provinces; but long term makes about as much sense as November's ticketing policy.

  5. All true – ALL true. I'm from Ulster, and I know the impact it would have, it would be huge.The blazers see themselves as the defenders of tradition – the ultimate Luddites. McGahan is probably a fan!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Rugby World Cup Schedule and Qualifiers details hereRugby World Cup 2011 ScheduleRugby World Cup 2011 Dates

%d bloggers like this: