New Faces, Old Problems

Egg was excited and full of anticipation all day Saturday and on his way to the Palindrome – Deccie had picked a side in good form, South Africa were injury-hit and the 5:30 kickoff is very much conducive to pints and atmosphere. By two minutes into the second half, all the hope started to die – the Springboks had gotten over a listless and indisciplined first half and had decided to play like men. And Ireland had no answer. It ended up as a quiet whacking and bagging.

There were definite pluses in some individual performances, but the biggest issue with the current coaching ticket re-asserted itself – Ireland appeared to have no plan to actually win the game, and were devoid of cohesiveness and unresponsive when the stakes were raised. The familiar shuffling of the ball across the back line re-appeared, which South Africa easily defended until the inevitable mistake.  With the ball, they took the short-side option too often and found themselves getting isolated regularly.  They lacked the ball-carrying heft to get through South Africa, and never looked like they had the smarts to get around them.  With a defence coach in charge of attack, little wonder.

First the positives – Chris Henry and Mike McCarthy carried their provincial form into the international stage – both looked comfortable on the biggest stage and were Ireland’s most influential players. We’ve been hugely critical of their non-selection in the past, and this was why – McCarthy tackled himself to a standstill, and Henry’s breakdown work was quality. Both should now be treated as incumbents and allowed to hold on to the shirt against the Pumas – McCarthy alongside O’Connell should he be back, and Henry at openside in Sean O’Brien’s continued absence.

Simon Zebo did well at full-back – his boot wasn’t as consistently accurate as Bob’s (whose is?) but he was safe under the high ball and threatening in possession – he looked hungry and ran hard lines. Necessity was the mother of this invention, but he passed a tough test. New boy and gaelgoir Risteard O hOstrais had a good debut – he didn’t see the space he routinely finds in the HEC/Pro12, but he threw reasonably well, and was a nuisance at ruck time.

On the other side of the ledger, the major problem is Ireland’s gameplan, or lack thereof. The positive and purposeful way the Pumas beat Wales yesterday does not augur well for the next big assignment – Argentina will be confident and will feel if they can impose their set piece on Ireland, we may not have an answer. We saw this aspect of our play improve during the Six Nations, so we can only hope that will be the case again, and we will approach the Argentina game with something less muddled.  Best prepare for a repeat of the edgy, nervy abomination of a game exactly four years ago, only with a better Argentina.

On the personnel front, Jamie Heaslip will be disappointed with his first day as captain – his yellow card topped off a tough day at the office. The bench had virtually no impact – Reddan was powerless to speed things up behind a going-nowhere pack and Donncha’s frantic windmilling on the sideline was merely a prelude to a decimated scrum in his first action, and the O’Gara to 10/Sexton to 12 play is predictable and pointless.

In spite of the positive displays and close scoreboard, the buzzards seem to be circling around the carcass of the team right now – if we don’t beat the Pumas, Deccie will be the lamest of lame ducks and a 2012 that has been so positive for the provinces will end as a proper annus horribilis for the national side.

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61 Comments

  1. Morton Slumber

     /  November 12, 2012

    I thought Bent would have got a mention gents, his (albeit short) performance was a big positive for Ireland he held his first scrum despite savage pressure & then pounded SA on the second scrum. One decent carry in the loose too.

    • Quite right Morton, Bent deserved credit for a good debut. One scrum penalty, one good hard carry for a few yards. Not a bad start by any means!

  2. Yup. Plenty of positives and you’ve namechecked most of them: McCarthy, Henry, McCarthy, Strauss, McCarthy, Zebo, McCarthy…and Bent’s superb cameo (not to mention McCarthy).

    You rightly mention the total absence of gameplan in attack (poor old Les Kiss – although I have heard rumours he is being groomed to succeed Deccie egads). However, ignore the elephant in that room that is Murray. His laboured distribution behind a pack that was going forward in the first half was a sin – combined with his atrocious box kicking, it would surely mean being finally dropped – if we had a decent manager.

    According to Dexies (who usually gets first refusals on the team sheet), Deccie will go with PMarshall, Jackson, LMarshall and Cave for the XV. I – for one – will be excited to see Paul Marshall as he has to be the future. I also think Cave can do a job for Ireland at 13 (Earls was really poor on Saturday unfortunately), so will look forward to his effort. Think its too early for the other two. However, if true, at least Deccie is going out with some dignity and blooding players (something his predecessor failed to do during is ignominious exit).

    The real problem – once Deccie is gone – is where will squad confidence be? After – effectively – the worst run of results for the national side in the professional era, self-belief must be pretty low. Carton House the sequel will be needed…with SUFTUM players maybe replacing the role the Leinster players played in 2009.

  3. Leinsterlion

     /  November 12, 2012

    Very measured post WOC, too measured in fact. You neglect to mention the paucity of Irelands midfield back play. This has to be the final nail in Darces international career,he cant get over the gain line,its game over for him. Earls lived up to my prediction of not being powerful enough or having the requisite skillset to be an international center. He was up against a converted full back in Jaco Taute and he couldnt get anything going. All his supporters hang your heads, If you cant beat an out of position full back….oh wait, Earls is also out of position, he belongs on the bench.
    Ryan was very disappointing. NWJMB and McCarthy lock partnership has to be..no,is the only way to go. O’Mahoney laughably put all those captaincy comments to bed, time for him to head back to Munster and nail down a position.Hes not an international 6/7 or 8.
    Murray as usual, was poor.Did Redden sleep with Kidneys wife when he was at Munster? What does he have do to get a start?
    Zebo was surprisingly not awful.He has to retain his postion and Kearney will have to EARN it back,he shouldnt be dropped when Kearney returns. Time to build some competition for places.
    As usual though every poor Irish performance falls back to Führer Kidney.He’s the lamest of lame ducks and duck hunting is in season .
    Also why was O’Gara brought on? George Hook must be on crack…proclaiming Sexton our best ten should be played at 12 to accommodate the decrepit deep lying anachronism that is ROG while ignoring Madigan/Jackson and Keatley.

    • I’d be interested in seeing the stats but I would wager Darce was one of the most line-breaking backs. The 12-13 defense in the second half was very soft though and Keats did not look like a 13 – sorry WOC.

      • Well I take back the bit on the Darce stats http://www.espnscrum.com/south-africa-tour-2012/rugby/match/162815.html still don’t see his being top of the heads to role. All the more so give Ulster’s starting 12 is Wallace and Munster’s preferred is Laulala.

      • Xyz

         /  November 12, 2012

        Well, ESPN has him (currently! they might change their mind as the week goes on) with one defender beaten and 7/2 tackle/miss ratio. Earls stats are pretty good looking in comparison.

        To be honest something seems really off with ESPN’s stats – I’m sure Healy and Henry managed a turnover between them!

        http://www.espnscrum.com/south-africa-tour-2012/rugby/match/162815.html

      • Xyz

         /  November 12, 2012

        Too slow it seems….

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 12, 2012

        You may have point about Darce,he isnt the most pressing problem and we have to factor in that he had Earls outside him, which I didnt factor in. But the fact is he created nothing on the ground(19yds 8 carries,2.37 YPC,even I didnt think it was that bad)
        Darce is serviceable with mr-13 himself outside of him,but that is the case with any 12 playing inside Drico.
        I’ll insert a caveat,when Drico is playing Darce is servicabe, i’d like to see what happens with a 13 outside him..say Cave or anyone with a rugby brain.

      • I would like to see Cave given a shot against the Argies (lets see how he goes in the XV)…he is the only real alternative to Keats at 13 (Bowe at 13 makes me shudder). I would also put Keats at 15 and put Zebo on the wing instead of Trimble (although I wouldn’t be opposed to Keats 11 and Zebo at 15 again). If Cave starts against the Argies, I would not take a gamble and play a non-province-starting 12 beside him (so no Marshall or McFadden this time). That leaves Darce unless you go with the George Hook nonsense of starting ROG 10 and Sexton 12.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 12, 2012

        McFadden cant really be considered a gamble at 12,his performances there couldnt be any worse then Darcy’s and if they are well then we can strike his name from the register of pretenders to the 12 jersey.
        My options would be Mcfadden/Cave, Downey/McFadden or Madigan at 10 Sexton/Cave in the midfield.
        2015 has to be the main criteria for selection. A world cup semi is better then any amount of triple crowns or glorious failures that this Irish team seem to specialise in(the NZ tour being case in point). And a WC final is better then a Grand Slam, its time to discard anyone who wont make 2015.

  4. zdm

     /  November 12, 2012

    Positives:
    1) McCarthy looked very natural at this level and should surely be the first name on the sheet now
    2) Henry made a nusiance of himself all day long – his play is devious and designed to put the opposition on-edge, he is either digging away, trying to disrupt the ball or very clearly not, waiting to ambush the ball carrier but you notice as the game goes on that the opposition players look to see what he is at before deciding on their attack, slowing things that fraction
    3) Zebo did fairly well considering he is a wing playing full back against the biggest ping-pong merchants outside of Twickenham. I was fairly scathing of his selection prior to the game and have a few niggles – he ran to the wide channel 9 times out of 10, squeezing out our wingers in the process for example, but all in all, it wasn’t the complete shambles I thought it would be. Maybe Deccie can get him to be back-up prop against the Argies now.

    Negatives:
    One really which had an impact on poor or average performances from some big names. The players look like they are attempting to execute a game plan they don’t believe in – the forwards in the second half were so hesitant in the loose that we lost our captain to the bin and conceeded a try that was so excruciatingly inevitable. The backs spent most of the second half throwing the ball in front or behind their target and crabbing across the pitch – again a sign that they didn’t quite know what they were meant to be doing.

    I know we are broke but surely to God we should find a reason to get rid of Kidney and get someone new in before we sink any lower?

  5. Xyz

     /  November 12, 2012

    Wow, some gloom on here. I went in optimistic and hoping that we’d see some new guys (at international level) do well and we did. Surely no one expected Deccie to come up with a plan or some structure on the pitch? Take what we can from this – McCarthy has arrived, Zebo was pretty damn good, Henry has got revenge on his miserly selection in NZ, we look like we might suddenly have a bit of depth at TH, Healy hit his stride.

    If I’m honest, I didn’t think Murray had a particularly bad game, in contrast to some of the guys in the comments section above. Not great or anything but adequate and Reddan certainly wasn’t noticably better.

    Two things did stick with me though – 1, Trimble came off his wing a lot and while this shows a laudable desire to go looking for work it left us short of pace on the left wing occassionaly & 2, Sexton’s tackling technique was very upright and he nearly got punished for it.

    Anyway, on balance our players had a good game and our management had a shocker. One of those is changing soon.

    • zdm

       /  November 12, 2012

      Trimble had a bit of an anonymous game but he can’t be blamed for coming off his wing – it’s a major facet of his game at Ulster and one that Ireland seem to ignore and he had no space on his wing because everyone else crabbed across so much that he would have been in danger of being clobbered by one of Stakhanov’s windmills if he stayed put.

    • Amiga500

       /  November 12, 2012

      Murray was shocking.

      Slow to pass, bad decisions on who to pass to, bad passes, bad kicks.

      He got a couple of box kicks over the sideline – that was about the height of his positive input. His brain just isn’t sharp enough to operate at this level.

  6. ruckinhell

     /  November 12, 2012

    The “we lacked experience” chestnut was thrown out by all and sundry linked to the management team (Deccie, Dexies, etc), yet it was the new faces in the squad which performed on the day and provided the bright spark needed. Some of the established players are almost laughably out of form and touch with international rugby.

    There is a more fundamental issue than player selection, it is the fact that we lack a valid and discernable game plan. We don’t really have one in attack and we haven’t done so since our “put em under pressure” 2009 era kick and kick mentality. Now we seem to have multiple phases of wing to wing play, and without Ferris and O’Brien to truck it up we don’t have the players needed to break the gainline to make even this simple plan work.

    The Boks are the team in the Big 3 who we are best equipped to defeat and although we more than matched them for physicality in the 1st half it was deeply worrying that we couldn’t out-think them in the second half. The current team under Meyer are not exactly rocket scientists yet our game plan had none of the complexity or ingenuity needed to cut them open.

    On the player front, POM was very poor and is too underpowered for test rugby at the moment. Henry surprised me, he brought his Ulster form and looked well able for this level with some seriously good groundwork in the first half in particular. I said in the comments here that if McCarthy could nullify his opposite numbers with his grunt he’d have done well, he did this and more and I think that Etzebeth will definitely know who McCarthy is after that monster tackle! Zebo did well at fullback, although he didn’t bring the awareness of other players to the field that he has developed this season with Munster (too often dying with the ball).

    As for RADGE! some top, top work to consolidate our 4 point loss with a deft chip on the halfway line in the dying minutes. His experience showed greatly, there’s nothing like a Test centurion deciding that he’ll take the game by the scruff of the neck and try and very low % play. Yet Deccie will say that it was that very lack of experience which meant we lost the game and had it been a debutant he’d have thrown out some patronising soundbite about never rebuking a guy for having a cut while actually publically doing so there and then. With ROG it was never even mentioned and at this stage there is a serious blindspot to him at national level- he is patently not at the level required anymore and all he will do now is tarnish a phenomenal record with Ireland (and Munster). Go quietly into the night RADGE!

    • Brilliant stuff ruckinhell. We tweeted about the experience argument being nonsensical this afternoon.

      This half of WoC (Palla) was in Tenerife during the game and could only listen to it on the radio, but watched it all on Sunday. I knew RoG had kicked the ball away to end the game so I said to Ms Ovale ‘Wait til you see, ROG will do something really dumb in a minute but neither Ryle nor Tremenjus will even mention it.’ Sure enough, my predictions came to pass. And better yet, Hook told the nation that the backline was better with ROG in it. Incroyable.

  7. Jimbob

     /  November 12, 2012

    Hhhhmmmmmmm. What to say? Positives and negatives to be taken from this game. Long term future looks fairly bright with new and newish players impressing individually, that is provided they can get a look in when the others return.

    However, Deccy is stifling the talent throughout the squad to the point where the teams top established players (Sexton, Heaslip, Church, Ryan?) can’t/won’t take the game by the scruff of the neck and go all out to win. Do they want to win? I’m sure they do but why won’t they when they clearly have it in them? The Saffa’s were far from the best opponents Ireland will meet this season but in the end they strolled past us. Argentina, France and of course BNZ showed us how to win at the weekend, unfortunately I can’t see Deccy taking note for the Argentina game in two weeks and we’ll have a pretty similar result.

  8. Thanks for all the comments folks. Earls threw one complete howler of a pass and didn’t play particularly well. His kick straight into Kirschner’s arms was another bad moment. But he did conjure up the closest thing we had to a line break and according to those ESPN stats made over 50m from 4 carries. He also passed 7 times and ran 4, so even if his distribution was a bit off on the day at least he wasn’t having a cut every time he got the ball, something he’s been criticised for in the past. Don’t forget he was injured in the build up to the game.

    • He certainly didn’t cost us the game (that honour goes to the management, with a bit of help from Murray). Earls just still doesn’t look a good fit as an international 13 – methinks thou dost protest too much. As I posted above, it looks like Cave will get the nod for the XV game (according to Dexies crystal ball). If he shows up, then he deserves a shot against the Argies surely?

      • We don’t think the personnel was the problem so much as the lack of attacking shape. None of the backline was especially brilliant and Earls was no better or worse than anyone around him. Thre looks to bea dearth of ideas, innovation and confidence there.

        We’d hate for anyone to think we’re entrenched in an opinion about any player, and of course we’d love to see Cave (who we rate highly) put his hand up for selection against Fiji on Saturday.

    • LarryMilne

       /  November 12, 2012

      Perhaps I’m alone, but I thought Earls played all right. The long pass off the left was minging but his hands were good otherwise (including some crisp short balls) and, along with Zebo, was easily our most threatening player. In a match where our attacking patterns made little sense and we barely ever threatened, you don’t use the post mortem to start de-selecting the only guys who did any better.

      Some of the comments excusing another “ah, bless, he’s not a bad bosh centre for a small man” lamentable performance from D’Arcy because he was playing alongside Earls are laughable. Gordon was crap, again, and that should be the end of him in a green shirt, but won’t be.

      Aside from the obvious roster of injuries, I felt where we lost the ball on Saturday was in our attacking gameplan. We used forwards to attack very tight to the breakdown – positively Bok-esque in lack of vision and creativity – and, every so often, we just chucked it wide to see what would happen.

      Concerning the forward runners, it was all passing to a man who had chosen his line ten minutes earlier and had no plans to change his mind. Compare with the Kiwi approach on Sunday, when they engineered dozens of missed tackles on the Scottish fringe by – shock – fixing defenders and having multiple passing options to forwards coming at various angles and playing with their heads up to read the defence. You know, rugby; just because SA are in town doesn’t mean we have to start eating braai. Sexton is perfectly suited to this type of game but when he got the pill there was normally not a green shirt within five or ten minutes. Thus he not only has no options, the defence know he’s got none and they just followed the inevitable wide passes (out to a backline standing way too deep) and destroyed any space like a picnic blanket covers grass.

      Sexton’s receiver options also had too few options themselves – the support triangles that seemed to be the basis of our play in the Six Nations weren’t as noticeable – and we ended up running laterally with the ball (Zebo at one point running across the pitch like it was a schools match springs to mind).

      This post is more than long enough, I could spout all day about this. But, as Xyz said above, surely no-one expected any improvements in terms of the team’s approach under Kidney? Given that, positive performances from rookie players is about as good as we can hope for, and that’s what we got.

      • I would totally share the analysis that the problem is the regime and the lack of gameplan. Apart from Murray, I also don’t think any player necessarily deserves dropping based on the test. Earls was definitely not terrible: its just he was again unconvincing (and made a couple of high profile mistakes) and, after a host of such performances, it would make sense to try out someone else. That left-right pass was an absolute shocker though…but the mighty one has thrown many a backhanded shocker in his time too lets not forget.

      • Insightful stuff LarryMilne. No doubt about it, Ireland don’t seem to suport the ball carrier, and on the rare occasion that a player gets his hands free and looks for an offload, there’s nobody around in the same time zone, just as you describe. Expansive rugby doesn’t necessarily have to be wide-wide. Leinster often attack quite narrow but flood the support channels so the ball carrier has options and can fix defenders. With Ireland, it’s an ill-fitting mix of one-out runners or lateral wide-wide. It’s not far from McGahanball.

      • LarryMilne

         /  November 13, 2012

        Cheers WoC. I caught a little bit of highlights on RTE last night and, in the first half, some of our play was much better – fixing defenders and earning yards past big forwards whose feet were slightly flat. This disappeared in the second half, replaced by a lot of one out balls to guys who would probably crash straight into a defender if the oppositon had 14 men in the bin, puntuated by flailing it wide, playing out moves well in front of the defensive line, and losing ground. I think your McGahanball comparison is excellent.

        It’s not like we don’t have players who can do this rugby lark, but I’m not sure the current coaching ticket have much of a scoobie. The spine of Leinster’s great attacking ability can be easily missed by the fact they play touchline to touchline. That sounds like the template for a ‘wide’ game, but that’s not what happens, it’s not about going wide or staying tight or boshing up the middle or anything like that: what they do is consistently attack the defensive line at the most beneficial place for them. This can be for any number of reasons – the fringe isn’t settled, attack there; winger in space against fatboy, get him the pill; defending winger up, loads of space, kick to find grass; fatboy with a clear run at isolated small man, hit him; two defenders have gone slightly too far apart in midfield, so take it to the line and put someone through the gap for easy yards and momentum at worst, clean break at best; and on and on.

        When people say “heads-up rugby”, I think that’s what they mean, but I’m not sure everyone who uses the phrase really knows what it entails or that, essentially, ideas about “we need to go wide more” or “we need to keep it tight more” can represent strategies without thought, and where the decision making process – which is where the very best sides line their nests with victories – is actually abdicated in favour of automaton rugby, where choices are not made based on what is in front of a player, but on analysis of where things went wrong previously – not that this, in itself, is useless, as I see it as very useful in examining decision making failures and successes in the past, but these assessments should not be used blindly, which is exactly what happens when you play without recourse to the defence in front of you.

        Anyway, that is the reason Leinster’s high-quality handling skills, much discussed, are so important; they are necessary to play the game this way (the way it should be played) as the team has to be confident in its ability to move the ball to wherever it wants across the width of the pitch, be that one yard or sixty, from every breakdown. It’s also precisely what the All Blacks did to Scotland on Sunday. It’s noticeable how much more skillful the ABs were than their opponents, especially in the forwards, but there’s nothing that complicated about what they do. It’s like (at their finest) Leinster plus plus, the enhanced special deluxe limited edition with free Ruchie and Den facemasks (they were both sensational – which isn’t much of a comment, as it was so obvious, but… wow!).

        OK, that’s longer than I intended…

  9. Last week I said Zebo would cost us the game through a noobie error and he didn’t so I should apologise, I was too pessimistic. I have to say though it was hard to watch Ireland playing at times, reminded me of Connacht’s poor run last season, endless recycling leading to inevitable mistakes. But this season Connacht are playing exciting expansive rugby and Ireland are still poor. Even Scotland looked more exciting in defeat than we did. At this rate I would have serious concerns that a fourth place finish in the six nations might not be impossible which would be a truly horrible finish to Kidders reign and really take the polish off that grand slam.

  10. ruckinhell

     /  November 12, 2012

    Can I also take this opportunity to say Felicidades to los Pumas for a very impressive performance in Cardiff! As an Irishman based in Buenos Aires, it’s been an interesting few months to see them acclimatise to the Rugby Championship. While they didn’t get a win (drew with the Boks in Mendoza), they were very competitive in all the matches bar the thumping by the All Blecks in La Plata (and there’s no shame in that, currently everyone has been on the receiving end of at least one hiding from the Blecks). I think they’ve exceeded expectations and are trying to evolve their game past their traditional strengths. I expect that there will be plenty of patronising comments from Dexie et al. prior to the match about the “abrasive Argentines” and their “powerful scrummaging threat”. Extra marks if they call it the “bajada scrum” but the reality is that they’ve not really had a destructive scrum in the last number of years. What they have done is evolve their game past a ten man kick and chase and Ireland might be surprised to see a more expansive game plan where we’re attacked in the wide channels and on multiple phases. Also, a serious shout out to Juan Fernandez Lobbe who has been an exceptional leader and player over the last few years; surely a candidate for World Player of the Year.

  11. Peter

     /  November 12, 2012

    Bottom line this is down to coaching and direction, all four provinces are currently playing expansive and exciting rugby in the back line, when the same players put on a green jersey they look completely rudderless and lacking in any innovation. Time for a change at the top.

  12. Discussions and criticisms of individuals are total red herrings at this stage and miss the bigger picture; Ireland’s lack of attacking ideas. In the last ten minutes of the game Ireland ran the same set play three times. Twice in attacking positions while Pieterson was in the sin-bin, Ireland but in garryowens. They had no other idea how to break down the Bok defense and fell back on plans that had already failed to yield anything. That points to a team that is ill prepared.

  13. Sam.

     /  November 12, 2012

    As a complete and utter aside from that drabfest of a match, wasn’t it fantastic watching France?
    Picamoles, that scrum half who’s name I can’t spell, Michilak looking more matured.
    I love vicariously taking joy from French winds over SH teams.

  14. Sam.

     /  November 12, 2012

    wins*

  15. zdm

     /  November 12, 2012

    I feel so sorry for O’Mahoney – he is being ruined by the current regime.
    Every time O’Brien, Ferris or Heslip is injured, he gets dumped in to the position and it is rarely the same position twice in a row.

    Kidney frequently speaks about combinations and then attempts to shoe-horn what he judges to be the best available personel in to the team regardless.
    O’Mahoney is arguably the 4th best back-rower in the country (although it would be a decent argument) but he is not the 2nd best number 8 (Roger Wilson) or number 7 (Chris Henry). Despite this, O’Mahoney is first back-up in all 3 backrow positions to the extent that he can’t settle in to one.

    This rule of thumb can be seen throughout the Irish team for years now – Tom Court was the 3rd best prop in Ireland for years but at international level, he was swapped around so much that he was eventually torn to pieces at Twickenham. Kidney has since cut him loose (as a scape goat for the much bigger deficiencies we now see) and since, he has been one of Ulsters most consistent performers.

    At the end of the match on Saturday, we had a winger at full-back, a full-back/winger at centre, a centre on the wing and a fly half at centre! 3 out of the 7 backs on the pitch were playing in what I would call their natural position at the end of the 80 and only 1 of the 3 (Tommy Bowe) was the best available for that position. Even if they were the 7 best backs in Ireland, it is laughable to think that they could play together as any sort of cohesive unit.

    • Scrumdog

       /  November 15, 2012

      I don’t agree that O’Mahony is a test match backrower! He is definitely not an openside whatever about being blindside or 8 in the future. How he has even started a test match, and is so talked about, as an Ireland captain and as a ‘multi-talented Richie McCaw’ type by the media before even playing for Munster, is beyond me….only Kidney knows the answer to that! A highly overrated player in my view…too tempestuous and will be put in his place time and again as he was in NZ. If he plays as a starter or off the bench he’ll be targeted by the Argies for a few easy penalties and possibly a red card for retaliation. Wet behind the ears…needs more games at home in Thomond Park. A run against Fiji for him wouldn’t hurt unless Deccie has bigger things in mind!
      It does however appear that Kidney is hell bent on creating the new Paddy Wallace in ROG!
      I agree that McFadden should be given some large minutes at 12 as a starter or off the bench….no reason why D’Arcy cant share the shirt and prolong his career….as with O’Connell, O’Callaghan, BOD, and Ferris.Select players in their favoured positions, create a squad rotation system and use it!!! Have we learned nothing from so many trips to NZ in the 2000’s, have we taken anything on board…appears not!
      Kidney is showing signs that he may be ‘getting it’ now but its way too late for his regime to reap the benefits….they are practically begging to stay on now!
      It will be interesting to see how the ‘new midfield’ performs at the next level. Muldoon should be the 6 for the Argentina game. Backrow of Henry-Heaslip-Muldoon.

  16. Just a few thoughts, echoing a lot of what has already been said.

    McCarthy was fantastic, was level with that huge Rugby Dump worthy hit and felt it all the way in the up in the upper west. Great to see such hunger. I thought he and Ryan worked well as a partnership altho I think it was Ryan who left the pillar for Pienaar’s try.

    Bent’s cameo had my father in raptures. A former front row himself, he couldn’t remember the last time he saw a back so straight. Remains to be seen what he’s like around the park but looks like the gamble paid off.

    I thought Earls had a reasonable game, with solid tackling, not an area he’s been renowned for. The stats seem to back this up. Zebo did well under less than ideal circumstances.

    Sexton for sure crocked himself about 15 minutes in from what I could see. Altho the kicks were going over, they got messier & messier & he didn’t make his usual yardage out of hand. ROG’s effort was a howler but I’m still not sure if J10 had to leave the field at that time how Jackson/Madigan/Keatley would have gotten on. but sure that’s abstract.

    I thought Heaslip had a poor day with the armband. Obviously there was the yellow card, but the decision not to go for the corner and opting for the posts after we had marched the Saffers back was puzzling. I know we’ve form on these type of decisions but that’s no excuse. South Africa took their try and we didn’t.

    Finally, our key issue really is the lack of a coherent attacking strategy. It’s all been outlined above but it’s a huge worry. I was also disappointed that there seemed to be a lack of leadership on the pitch, particularly with the back line.

  17. Sam.

     /  November 12, 2012

    POM, like I’ve said before, isn’t big enough for test rugby.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  November 12, 2012

      Its like whistling into the wind mate, the POM hype-machine is in full swing.Until DK is culled he’ll garner more undeserved caps then Mick O Driscoll. ……..

  18. Anonymous

     /  November 12, 2012

    There is no doubt the current regime, not just the coaches, but the committee, the management, selectors, all of them have to go. We need new voices and new ideas- its the same people saying the same thing to the same players. Schmidt is nt here because he loves Leinster and loves the players – he is here because we pay him big €€€ – get him in the Ireland job, give him his backroom staff and get rid of the rest of them.

    As for Earls and POM? I can t believe what I am reading. They were hands down our worst performers, both looked so out of their depth it was painful, POM was swatted away like a fly on a number f occasions and was brushed off by Strauss as if he was nt there. Earls decision making and general basic skills were appalling as usual, his one break ended in him running Down a blind alley and losing the ball. Again. Too many chances now, Cave in at 13.

    Zebo had a cracking game I thought, he stood up so deserves his place going forward. Murray lacks the skills that unfortunately cannot be coached, in that he is too busy at ruck time looking for gaps to snip through that simply are nt there at international level. Once again, too many chances.

    Expecting Arg to do a job on us, then another failed 6 nations, but after that – hopefully – The IRFU will put a line through this awful period and move us forward

  19. I would briefly like to inquire as to whether I was the only hot blooded male who spotted the super sexy SA medic? Somebody sign her up for the Irish cause please!

  20. paddy

     /  November 12, 2012

    I wasn’t pleased with the result but I expected us to get whipped so when we were still in it with 20 mins to go I was quite happy. I thought we wasted our chance to put the game beyond them when they were down to 14. Was it just me or did Sexton waste a lot time over the kicks. MacCarthy was worth his MOM award and I was impressed with Henry and Zebo.

    Not sure I agree about the lack of an attacking plan. We didn’t have enough gainline breaks to really do anything. Really missing Fez and O’Brien.

    Rogs days in a green jersy are numbered. He’ll be playing until his contract with the IRFU runs out. Which unfortunately I think is the end of thr 2013 season. So he’ll get a few more caps yet. He’s already paid for and I think the suits don’t want to be handing out anymore money to the youngs lads who will succeed him. His selection makes a lot of sense if you look at it from the money perspective.

  21. Len

     /  November 12, 2012

    The comments here highlight one of our biggest issues as a rugby nation which is our overly conservative nature. We would rather play dull defensive rugby for 80 minutes for the chance of a one point win than through caution to the wind and play like France or NZ. This conservatism follows through to our selection process where we are unwilling to risk young players in internationals and prefer to rely on ageing players who have ‘experience’. As a result players here are breaking through to the national squad at a later stage despite perhaps playing brilliantly with their Provence. As we won’t see a change in management between now and the end of the season I’m afraid we can look forward to Darcy starting all six, DOC and a 36yo and clearly past it Rodge on the bench.

    • Rich

       /  November 13, 2012

      Totally agree with you Len – we have found ourselves in a tight spot. Bringing on Ocallaghan, ROG and even Redden shows how backward we are. Imagine the spark Marshall, Madigan and Tuohy would have brought to the Aviva. Pace and power instead of painful, laboured play with the eventual badly exectued kick. I for one know what I ll get with our subs and that’s damage limitation.

      I have been critical of Earls on here. He showed some guts by playing well in the 2nd half, but, the damage had been done IMHO. The series of Bad decisions and no skill with ball in hand showed that he is still a few steps away from this level. Only outdone by o’mahoney who was visible only for his missed tackles. The reason our play looks so lateral is that defences have so much time to regroup because our current 9 is still getting to rucks – our quick ball is then slow and we are set up to get hit behind the gain line.

  22. Len

     /  November 13, 2012

    One last question for everyone here. Did anyone else find the differences in the match reports a little strange? Normally I’ve found most pundits seem to report along fairly similar lines with the odd exception. Yesterday however I found the reporting varied quite a lot with player ratings having as much as three/four points of a difference between pundits.

    • Morton Slumber

       /  November 13, 2012

      Therein lies the problem with the Irish rugby media, certain people feel the need to repeat Kidneys utterings as if it’s the gospel truth while ignoring blatant issues, others ruin an otherwise intelligent analysis by throwing in outlandish comments purely to be controversial for the sake of it.

    • Jimbob

       /  November 13, 2012

      There’s little point paying attention to the media anymore; as Morton says some are towing the line with Deccy and the others are trying to cause an undirected stir. I’d pay attention more to the comments made by shaggy, RK, and BOD when doing their TV stint over the weekend. BOD said again that they were all still trying to figure Deccy out! Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that’s the second time he’s said something like this on TV! Can someone at the IRFU please take note?

    • Leinsterlion

       /  November 13, 2012

      The media all have their own agendas, take someone like Hook. I dont know of anyone with a modicum of rugby knowlege who thinks he has any credibility left.Yet he has a column and is basically the face of RTE coverage. His solution to Ireland problems is to play ROG 10 with Sexton at 12!………He also has beef with Heaslip for some reason. The media are just not credible anymore, take Goebbels Thornley. Formerly an essential read, everyone I know just skims through his columns and then goes online to register their disgust!
      No one, not even Toland(who I used to like) is giving honest coverage any more. Which is probably why I’m reading someone like WOC, who more often then not, is on the money(apart from the Earls issue). Print media is dead, there is not one column(maybe matt williams) in the Irish news media worth reading on a regular basis.

      • Lay off the colonel. He is still doing a fine job.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 13, 2012

        “I adored the first 40 minutes which were full of invention, pace and selective targets where Earls and others left the Boks for dead”-Liam Toland…..Is that an accurate reflection of how the first half actually went?That is implying that there is a plan and vision behind the current regime and if we replicated the first half performance everything would be gravy.
        His piece contained what could be construed as mild criticism(at best). Any journo writing about the current international teams recent performances without criticising them is not doing their job. We have just lost five in a row and the malaise of poor performances/selection stretches further back than that. Toland isnt calling it as it is, he’s being diplomatic. 2015 is around the corner, the Press have a duty to ramp up the pressure on the IRFU if we are to avoid our usual terrible WC performance.

      • You are at risk of a court martial 😉

  23. Don

     /  November 14, 2012

    Gentlemen, I assume you have already seen this, but in case you havn’t I thought I would show it to you. Tony Ward wrote a dreadful piece in the Independant that basically said we cant win because our players are not good enough. He then wrote this passage which caught my eye:

    So yes, if you must, sack the coach, sack his assistants, sack the players and, of course, all will be dandy. Sadly, rugby is now heading the way of soccer, fuelled by pitiful websites and the anonymous vitriol of cowards. Declan Kidney might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is fundamentally a realist.

    Hers the link if you want to bother reading the piece (though I wouldnt bother)
    http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/tony-ward-sacking-coach-wont-alter-the-fact-we-dont-have-enough-quality-players-3291939.html

    But pitiful websites? I think hes talking about you and Demented mole. It must be nice to know that the hacks in the printed media, the supposed experts, have actually noticed you and are paying ebough attention to be a little afraid of you.
    Keep it up lads

    • zdm

       /  November 14, 2012

      I read this yesterday and was absoultely stunned that it had been printed.
      It is quite ironic that a newspaper called the Independant would published a piece effectively stating that anyone who doesn’t toe the Kidney Party Line is a coward.

      I presume that accusing us of being jumped up soccer fans was the deepest insult imaginable toward what Mr Ward presumes are a group of bitchy D4 teenagers rather than passionate and well informed rugby fans.

      As for the criticism about this being an anonymous blog, you can have my email address if you want Tony (hell, I frequently get the “email” and user name” boxes back to front so things aren’t that anonymous anyway) but its all just a bit of fun – this blog would be much less attractive if it was called “John and Peter’s Rugby Blog” or “Steve O’Connor’s Opinion on This Weeks Happenings in the World of Rugby”

      An astonishingly poor piece of journalism and the final nail in the coffin for the Independant Sports desk for me.

      I won’t bother to comment on the notion that a nation providing 50% of the finalists in the last 5 Heiniken Cup’s has no decent players other than to say that I think we all know it’s non-sense.

    • Thanks Don – clearly Wardy is talking bullsh!t.

      One of our wishes for this season (post from Sep) was that the word “honesty” gets eliminated as something positive – Wardy has fallen right into the hole. Donnacha Ryan may be a solid worker and a decent guy – he did pretty much all asked of him, but made a major error that led directly to a try. If someone in the NZ team did that, they would likely be dropped – we should have the same standards.

      As for calling for the coach to be sacked, we have taken a pretty nuanced line on this – we have said we don’t think the setup is going anywhere, we have acknowledged the difficulties Deccie has (mostly with his incompetent bosses) but we haven’t called knee-jerk for Deccie’s head. We think the best thing to happen would have been for a new team after RWC11, but, given that didn’t happen, Kidney to offer to resign after the 60-0. That didn’t happen either, and we have been very constructive (more constructive than most) since.

      Ward is a fraud if he genuinely believes this.

      • paddy

         /  November 15, 2012

        “Donnacha Ryan may be a solid worker and a decent guy – he did pretty much all asked of him, but made a major error that led directly to a try. If someone in the NZ team did that, they would likely be dropped – we should have the same standards.”

        Don’t think you can hold it all against Ryan for the Try. Watch the clip:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxpBoOByTEM. He gets mauled into the ground picks himself up and starts following the rucks. I think he was looking at the base of the post when it happened. But if you get dragged around the pitch like that your decision making will abandon you. The try was coming whether it came from a penalty or a mistake. Not even the Kiwis could have withstood that if McCaw got sinbinned like Heaslip!

        It was our failings further up the field that lost the match.

  24. To be fair, Wardie has generally given balanced criticism before. He has even highlighted coaching deficiencies in previous articles. Given former players (and some current ones) are now openly questioning the current management, this diatribe is all the more confusing. Something must have fueled this rant.

  25. Rich

     /  November 14, 2012

    Reckon most of those articles are written on Friday nite over a good merlot – with a few “buzznames” added in on Sunday morning….”the kiwi bloke did well when he came on” Only drivel worse than them is listening to our leaders nonsensical mutters, Drico openly doubted him on air – and if you lose Drico you have lost the lot of em. End of. Only it won t be.

    Next 8 months will queue a series of easy and cost effective decisions. Coach stays in job, no players without irfu contacts selected, rog starts a 6 nations game, mick odriscoll called back in as Ryan Caldwell does nt play for a province and it’s too hard to scout in uk, Pom starts at no 8 “because foley says he is ok” and we bring out a new red Ireland playing jersey to boost revenue. Bring on summer 2013.

  26. Ross

     /  November 14, 2012

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/rugby/kidney-right-in-the-firing-line-16237298.html
    View from the North I think Niall has reasoned to what the rest of us rugby folk have been saying. Apart from the GS the results since then have been pretty poor apart from the odd one off great performance the rest of it has been pretty dour. I think no matter what the next two results will be should be the last of Kidney as Ireland coach and the rest of this current coaching ticket who have been responsible for turning potentially of the the most exciting teams in world rugby capable of great attacking play and hard nose defence into a slow ponderous team which cannot engineer a line break against a pretty poor South Africa, who I reckon will loose to Scotland.

    Rich hit on the economics of it. If the Irish players continue on with this performance level at Test level few will be picked for the Lions for which the IRFU receives a bounty for each player selected. So it could cost them in that respect. Also it is much easier to sell tickets for games after what I hope will be a winning Lions team which contains lots of Irish internationals.

    Also what is the point of Kidney even continuing with the job after this set of Internationals as he has been stating since the world cup that this year has been about getting that 8th spot on the rankings. To which I think its importance is overblown by the media as with our minimum expectation of reaching the semi finals we should be capable of beating all teams with the exception of New Zealand. Easier group or not the world cup is in England where our players will not have the excuse of being on the other side of the world and I would also imagine the support will just be like playing at home. So why when after the AI keep on Kidney when we will really be in need of reinventing our team and gain that essential experience for the team to move on. Instead we all know that the same old players will be rolled out again in order to get into the winning habit or what ever cliche phrase that Kidney will like to spout out at the press conference when the squad is announced with ROG, DOC et al. included. A new coach with new ideas is what the team will need we will be loosing 6 months of valuable development time for the world cup where we are already be more than a year behind the rest of our rival nations.

    ps Sorry if this rant seems a little all over the place its just hard to be an Ireland supporter at the minute with all the crap that is being spewed out from them in charge that treat the ever more educated supporter like an 8 year old child saying they know best when it is clear to all sane rugby fans that all is not

    • Deccie has never been popular in Ulster, and I think you are seeing that frustration in this piece. To be fair, when it came to marginal picks in the latest squad, he has gone for a few Ulster (Jackson, L Marshall, Henderson) ahead of contenders from other provinces.

      • ABROG

         /  November 15, 2012

        To be fair DK picks marginal Ulster players to hold tackle bags for the marginal Munster players. The only endorsement he gives is the “do a job” phrase and it’s only Munster boys who can do jobs.

  27. ABROG

     /  November 15, 2012

    Attacking ideas: First phase and subsequent attack.

    At international level we’re seeing lots of obstruction of defenders.

    Obstruction is defined under law 10.1(b) Running in front of a ball carrier. A player must not intentionally move or stand in front of a team-mate carrying the ball thereby preventing opponents from tackling the current ball carrier or the opportunity to tackle potential ball carriers when they gain possession.
    Sanction: Penalty kick

    Union teams have brought in league defence coaches and increased analysis. The league defence coaches have implemented the league idea of the defensive line, the knock on effect is that the ruck is not contested. Thus with 15 players fanning out across the pitch as opposed to league’s 13, union has found it much harder to go wide and around teams.

    Hence we now see lots of teams running plays based entirely on obstructing defenders. And the best time to run obstructing plays is from first phase ball.

    For a few examples:
    One of the most blatant obstructions I have ever seen.
    England v’s Australia 2010. The play starts from a ruck not contested by Australia. Ball is flung out towards an outhalf with 4 men in 2 2 man lines. Notice the England 6 obstructing.

    In league this try would not be awarded but in union the ref’s are not penalising so in a “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” world all the teams are being forced to employ this tactic.

    Analysis of Australian backline play by Green and Gold Rugby.

    The analyst highlights the “decoy” runners, some of the decoys are in front of the ball carrier which by the rulebook are committing obstruction. The decoy runners either run into opposing backs and jump with their arms in the air in a “it wasn’t me” motion and/or they get in the way of covering forwards.
    Notice that NZ barely fall for this as they are the best at doing it. Case in point Ma’a Nonu the NFL blocker playing 12.

    Argentina v’s Australia 2012

    Australian first phase attack employing a subtle obstruction.

    Argentina v’s NZ 2012

    The ARG decoy bumps into Carter who then misses the tackle.


    Ma’a Nonu runs a decoy line and so does Savea.


    Franks runs a decoy and so does Conrad Smith.

    NZ v’s Australia 2012

    Ma’a Nonu takes out the Australian 13.

    Australia v’s SA 2012

    Two decoys running 1st phase attack ball. Aus break the gainline and score from 4th phase ball.

    NZ v’s Australia 2012

    A near innocuos one but NZ have one obstructor which causes an accidental offside, of course it’s missed.


    Aus on NZ 10m. 4 Aus players standing pretty much directly behind each other with 2m spacing inbetween

    Argentina v’s SA 2012

    Obstructing runners allow Argentina to make easy ground and score. You would know that Graham Henry is their consultant.

    Wales v’s Argentina 2012

    Argentina’s second try had two obstructing runners.

    France v’s Australia

    In France’s first try the scrumhalf intentionally obstructs. He is ahead of the ball and that is certainly tactical.

    Australia v’s Wales

    Australian 6 obstructs making room in the centre for Barnes to run through.

    So how do you make line breaks? Be SBW.
    When NZ had SBW playing 12 he’d just run over people and offload. SBW is the epitome of the modern day centre. Massive with exceptional ball handling skills and although he has a penchant for throwing a few shoulders instead of wrapping in the tackle he is missed by NZ. Against tier 1 teams NZ have reverted to running plays based on obstruction for first phase attack.

    This discussion on Murray Deaker’s “Deaker On Sport” is the inspiration for the above analysis.

    So, to Ireland’s attack. We don’t do the plays based on obstruction and our basic ball handling skills aren’t good enough to create scores from open play. At international level one must be able to pass off both hands and put the ball at the receivers elbow height every time. Too often we’ll see receivers bending down or jumping to catch the ball, this split second disadvantage forces the receiver into contact. If the ball is received at elbow height his head is in the correct position to view the ball and observe oncoming players and seek out soft shoulders. At test level the line speed of the defenders is faster so handling errors get punished to a greater extent i.e. snuffing out attack, forcing kicks and turnovers.

    Taking the envogue league idea of defensive line (with the resulting loss of space) over rucking and combining with backline handling errors, I see our 9 and 10 being forced to kick too often. This points to a lack of confidence in the game plan. Our game plan is outdated. A small 12 who can’t smash it up and off load which works for SBW and NZ against everyone and which works for Wales against tier 2 teams. A forward pack (let alone our backline) whose handling skills aren’t up to international rugby standard. So our 9 and 10 kick to relieve pressure/hope it comes off (known to me as a “poke and hope”).

    The one saving grace is that Leinster do run attack plays based on obstruction.

    Leinster v’s Cardiff

    The four tries against Cardiff in the quarter final of the HC last year.
    For Nacewa’s try Cardiff fall for McLoughlin’s decoy run.
    For BO’D’s try count the number of Cardiff players O’Brien sucks as the decoy/obstructive runner.

    The only saving grace that I see for Irish rugby is that we now have 3 NZ coaches at Leinster, Munster and Ulster. Ball handling should improve immensely in Munster and Ulster fostering the confidence amongst our forwards to keep the ball alive and the adoption of obstructive back line play.

    For now the onus is on Kidney to pick the best ball handlers and adopt obstructive plays.

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