Post-Mortem: Ireland’s World Cup

Whiff of Cordite has never felt such a sense of disappointment, heartache and anticlimax as on saturday morning.  All the momentum, all the great work in the pools – all gone.  Ireland are on the plane home.  WoC predicted a quarter final exit for Ireland, but we certainly didn’t see it panning out the way it did.  Ireland finish up in or around par, but it was both much better than that, and yet, so, so disappointing.

First, the good: Ireland made a greater impact at the tournament than ever before.  They topped their group for the first time ever.  They beat one of the Tri Nations in, if not quite their own patch, their own continent.  And they were the darlings of the host nation for their magnificent and numerous support. 

Credit is due to the management for preparing and selecting the team so well.  They may have lost their four warm-up games, but in many ways it was the best thing for them.  They refused to panic, and were ready for battle by the time the Australia game rolled up.  They also had an emotional well into which to dip, and duly did so.

But if the management deserve credit for navigating the pool stages then they deserve some flak for the quarter final shambles.  Ireland were tactically inept and possibly complacent.  Keith Earls spoke beforehand of ‘dreaming of a World Cup final’.  What was he thinking?  The sight of the man picked to kick Ireland’s goals turning down two kickable penalties early on was mystifying.  Did Ireland think the early try against them was just an abberation they could cancel out at will?  Ireland, for all their much vaunted Cup Rugby Experience, either panicked or paid too little respect to their opponent.

Kidney had a fine championship, but he must regret not starting the game with the halves who started the Australia game.  No-one could have expected ROG to play so poorly, but Sexton’s running threat would have asked more questions of Wales’ fast-up defence.  Gareth Thomas revealed in a pre-match interview that Wales would have been thrilled O’Gara had been selected.   Why give an inexperienced side such a fillip?  Sure enough, they targeted him, ran through him, and cut him off from his backline.

Also, Ireland’s lack of a Plan B came back to bite them.  WoC has banged on to the point of tedium about the importance of the modern openside, but Kidney seems to have a blind spot to it.  Several media pundits have spent the weekend crying out for Ireland to start developing 7’s, but nobody has pointed out that we had one sitting in the stands.  Nobody here is going to argue that Jennings is as good as Warburton, or that he would necessarily have neutralised his threat, but the introduction of a dedicated fetcher would surely have made some sort of difference when it was apparent that Ireland were being slaughtered at the ruck.  Instead, Ireland brought on a 6 and a 4 to replace an 8 and a 6.

In the event, Ireland’s supposed ‘experience’ was massively overplayed (guilty as charged m’Lud) – Ireland last played a knockout game in 2003, when they were thrashed by France.  Heineken Cup medal counts were produced as evidence, but as we discussed on BP Rugby, the Heineken Cup is a very different tournament.  Games are spread out, allowing teams to drop intensity between rounds and rise to the boil.  After winning it in 2009, Michael Cheika spoke of having learned how to master this art, of ‘almost manufacturing dips’ in the Magners League to ensure the team peaks emotionally for the right games.  The World Cup knockouts allow no such wriggle room – it’s full on intensity one week after the next.  Ireland just can’t get enough consistency to sustain a challenge in a tournament like this.  This weekend it was clear that it doesn’t matter how you qualify from your pool as long as you get out of it.  Only Argentina were condemned to defeat for coming second in their pool.  Look at France – they got through their group with the bare minimum of effort, but have plenty in the tank for the task ahead of them.  Ultimately, Ireland’s win over Australia, magnificent and thrilling though it was, wasn’t that important.  It’s the knockout games that really count – and Ireland have never won one in seven World Cups.

The ultimate feeling is one of sadness, particularly for the great players, BOD, POC, ROG and D’arcy among them, who will not get another chance to reach a World Cup semi-final, or even further.  You suspect the younger players, though they will be back, will never get a better one either.  But we’ll always have Eden Park.

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5 Comments

  1. Spot on with the analysis, one question though, POC is only 32, why wouldn't he play in the next World Cup?. It's not like he has any competition for the jersey right now (or in the foreseeable future either!).

  2. Hi Fuzzy Dunlop, thanks for commenting. POC will be 36 at the next world cup, so it's possible he'll be there but by no means certain. Shawsy was 38 this year I guess. POC looks in pretty good shape, but four years is a long time, and I would imagine he was thinking of this world cup as his last. I expect he'll be good for one more Lions tour though.

  3. My view of where things went wrong.1) 2011 6N & Warm up games – DK wouldn't play new players like M Ross and SOB for ages when almost everyone could see their potential. The same thing led us to playing TOL when it was obvious we should be playing someone else. We should never end up with a young guy like C Murray suddenly being first choice with no chance to test him out properly before the competition.2) Our backline – Our backline boasts genuine quality yet failed to shine. Our sole backline move seems to be 'Bring Tommy in hard on the angle'. We were constantly flat as well.3) taking the ball standing – Saturday morning was probably the most frustrating game I've ever watched. We repeatedly took the ball from a standing start well behind the gainline. Unless you have a team of Hulks, this just won't work.There are some other little issues but the main one that i feel destroyed us was taking the ball static. We've been doing it for about two years now, yet it's so easy to fix.

  4. Hey Murff – thanks for your comments – good points all. It didn't go completely 'wrong' as such – let's not forget we won our pool, so we are four from five in the tournament. We'd be of the opinion that it's roughly a par finish, but there's obviously a feeling of great disappointment, because doing the hard work in beating Australia set us up with such a great chance…1. Agree on all of these, though to an extent these are water under the bridge. The Nov internationals were a shambles and the selections awful, but at least SOB and Ross were integrated by the 6N (even if only because of injuries to Deccie's usual servants).The O'Leary obsession was bizarre, though at least it righted itself at the end. More pertinent I'd say was the lack of trust in Reddan. Our two best performances over the last 12 months were with Reddan and Sexton at the helm, but Deccie just didn't seem to trust Redders.2&3. These are essentially two branches of the same point I think. Yep, Ms Ovale was doing her nut during the match at the static nature of our lads taking up the ball. This has been a problem for too long. The backs look jaded and short on ideas. The good news is Gaffney is heading back to Australia – a new backs coach is needed badly to bring in some new ideas. Too late for the world cup though…

  5. So it was a very disappointing end to Irelands World Cup. Even a week on I cant bear to watch highlights of the game! First of all a few points about the Welsh; yes they were the better team and they deserved to win however I remain to be convinced that they can go all the way. All 3 tries came from really poor defence and a quite basic attacking strategy that of all the teams in the competition would have only worked against us. No other side has had such a poor defensive axis at 10 and 12. I can see France pulling a similar job on Wales to what the Welsh did to us. Do Wales have a plan B if Roberts and Davies don’t get over the gainline?I think now the IRFU have to be decisive and ruthless (not things that you would associate with them!). Kidney whilst he delivered a fine win against Australia should not continue as head coach a handful of performances aside we have been woeful for 2 years, also his management of certain players has been shocking (Sexton being the obvious example). I think we need to make a complete break with Gerry Thornleys “Golden Generation” and realise that rugby is a 4 year cycle. We need to get out of the habit of only fully performing when written off and underdogs, but most importantly we need to realise that we do have the raw materials to win a World Cup! All the above points lead to us appointing a head coach with no loyalties to anyone in Ireland and who doesn’t look at the team through red/blue/white/green tinted glasses. We need to make an investment in the younger generation and embrace the new (well 2 year old) law interpretations. I think that we need to say thanks and goodbye to Dorce, Murphy, Leamy, Jennings, Cullen, DOC, Flannery, ROG. We to invest time in the likes of Sherry, McAlister, Hagan, Touhy, Ryan(s), Ruddock, McFadden, Spence, Keatley. POC and BOD should stay although O’Driscoll should be phased out of the team, if nothing else for his own long term health! I still if we invest in our talented youth we have a team to win a slam or two before England 2015. I can not suggest a name of the top of my head for a new coach but I am sure with enough research we could appoint a coach to take us to the next level.I do fear that writing the above paragraph is futile and Kidney will see out his two year contract. In fact I will take a stab at the starting team against Wales being Healy, Best, Ross, DOC, POC, SOB, Wallace, Heaslip, Murray, Sexton, Earls, Dorce, DOB, Bowe, Kearney. Personally (injury permitting) I would like to see a 22 of Healy, Best, Ross, Touhy, POC, SOB, Ryan, Heaslip, Murray, Sexton, Earls, Fitz, Spence, Bowe, Kearney, subs: Cronin, Hagan, Ryan, Ferris/Ruddock, Reddan, Keatley, BOD. Yes a few controversial calls but the run in to England 2015 starts now! Lets not waste any time!

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