Dereliction of Duty

If last weekend was the party, this was the comedown.  Three rubbish games: Ireland lost in a match whose quality was dictated by the conditions, France reneged on their great tradition amid one of the most abhorrent international performances in memory, and Italy just couldn’t dredge up the energy to back up their opening-week victory.  We finished the weekend feeling deflated.

The French team’s dereliction of duty to their history and their public was matched only by that of Ireland’s national broadcaster.  RTE’s rugby footage has long been a hot topic of discussion, with the boorish George Hook becoming a particularly trying, oafish presence on our screens.  Worse still, he seems to drag the rest of the pundits – the majority of whom are coherent and intelligent – down to his level by repeatedly shouting over them and maintaining that his pre-match prediction – no matter how wide of the mark – was in fact entirely correct.

But complaining about Hook is about as productive as complaining about the weather.  What was so infuriating about RTE’s presentation of Ireland’s defeat on Sunday was the total absence of any sort of discussion of Ronan O’Gara’s performance.  Just so we’re clear, the once great O’Gara turned in an awful display.  In conditions which could comfortably described as ‘O’Gara-friendly’, his kicking from hand was woefully inaccurate, with his penalties down the line scarcely gaining more than 15 metres.  His passing was similarly abject and his management of the game – so fabled down the years – was dreadful.  He fared better with the placed boot, knocking over two difficult penalties but missing a third, which would have reduced the deficit to three points.  Ultimately, it was sad to see a great, even legendary player reduced to such a shabby level, and underlines the danger of players hanging on for too long.  The old adage of the boxer taking on one too many fights sprang to mind.

The outcome won’t have been too much of a surprise to anyone who has watched Munster this season, where ROG’s game has declined sharply.  We have been of the opinion that ROG can no longer be a force at test level throughout the season.  At 35, this is no disgrace, and his status as a player of the age is secure in any case.  So we weren’t feeling all that glowy when Sexton departed the field injured after 20 minutes, unlike Donal ‘Tremenjus’ Lenihan, who assured us the situation was made for ROG and that he was a marvellous reserve to have.

When such a claim is made, and the outcome does not turn out as the commentator has predicted, the viewing public deserve some explanation as to why it has transpired thus, but Tremenjus wouldn’t say a word against his clubmate.  When ROG sliced a penalty out to touch, Tremenjus said we should have Kearney kicking instead.  But surely this is the very thing that ROG was brought on to do – one of the reasons he was such a good reserve in the first place.  Having Kearney kicking for the line – unless tight to the right touchline – would be entirely without precendent.  ROG’s missed kick at goal was greeted by Tremenjus with the sole observation that ROG had ‘struck it well’ – something even O’Gara would disagree with, given he missed.

Now let’s be fair to ROG here, and note that there were plenty of poor performances in the team.  Sexton’s tactcial kicking had been poor before coming off (though his touchfinders were long and accurate).  Jamie Heaslip performed badly, knocking on twice and conceding penalties (though he led the tackle count).  O’Mahony and especially Healy seemed more intent on fighting than playing footy.  The tight forwards generally did their job well enough, winning scrums and dominating the maul.  O’Brien played well.  It wasn’t a day for the chaps with two numbers on their backs, but Earls was the only one who looked a threat, and Ireland’s attacking shape looked pretty ragged from the start.  Kearney looks out of form and lost the aerial battle to England’s cannily selected full-back-heavy back three, who executed a simple kick-chase game far better than Ireland.

But in the post-match finale, ROG’s performance took on the status of the elephant in the room.  Amid Hook’s bleatings (which, incidentally, were being disproved as he spoke by the stats rolling across the bottom of the screen), and the panel discussion of where the match was lost, two words were conspicuous by their absence: ‘Ronan’ and ‘O’Gara’.  Now, nobody wants to see a centurion test legend get pulled apart on television, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that ROG is a protected species.  On Friday night, on his Newstalk show, Hook was happy to criticise Sexton’s – wait for it – game management in front of a live audience in Cork Con’s club bar, and claimed that Ireland would have won more comfortably had O’Gara been playing in the second half in Cardiff a week prior. So, when ROG’s supposedly superior game management was shown up to be not so superior after all, why was he not asked about it?

What makes it especially galling is that Jonathan Sexton, as a budding international in his second Six Nations season, had to endure scathing criticism from the panel, in particular after a mixed bag of an appearance as a substitute in a narrow win in Murrayfield, when Tremenjus pilloried the player for attempting to keep position and pass to his own team-mates rather than kick to opposing ones.  It may be stretching the point, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the agenda-driven media environment played some part in his recent decision to play his club rugby in Paris – he certainly would have been (rightly) lambasted was it him coming off the bench to produce such an aimless performance.

But, worst of all, it insults the audience.  The viewers have eyes and brains in their heads.  They could see what happened.  ROG was not solely responsible for the loss, but it was abundantly clear that he cannot play to the required level for test rugby any more.  This needed to be said, but it wasn’t.  In a cringe-inducing, self congratulatory round-table interview in the Irish Times a couple of years ago, McGurk and chums described themselves as the link between the team and the public, and appeared to see their role as one of imparting nuggets of wisdom to a public in need of educating.

Therein lies the rub.  When we read the comment box on this blog, or look at the increasing amount of great fan-writing available, or engage with other rugby fans on twitter or – even better – attend a rugby match or chat about the game with our mates in some sort of hostelry that purveys liquid refreshments, it is obvious that the Irish rugby public are passionate, opinionated and knowledgable.  We are aware that not everyone who tunes in to a Six Nations game is as obsessive about the game as many of those who read our pages, but the point holds.  Perhaps if RTE saw their role as not so much educating the hoi polloi about rugby as serving an intelligent community, we’d get the sort of analysis we deserve.  Getting rid of Hook, and putting Shane Horgan and Alan Quinlan centre stage, would be a start.

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124 Comments

  1. Roy

     /  February 11, 2013

    Great post. Hook seems to think he’s a rugby Dunphy. But if your outrageous, saying the unsayable shtick is to work you have to be right at least once in a while.

    O’Gara’s international career should now be over. He was great, but now he isn’t. That’s sport, that’s life. Time for Jackson or Madigan, if Sexton isn’t fit.

  2. montigol

     /  February 11, 2013

    I was delighted to see RADGE slot his first two kicks and draw us level, and you can tell that the Lansdowne Road crowd still has big affection for him but his performance for the rest of the game says to me that he should not be picked to start again, as he physically cannot compete at international level presently. Even his kicking has lost yards – those two penalties gaining a sum total of about 20 metres up the right-hand touchline were so underwhelming. I was screaming for Kearney to get over there and ask to take them or Jamie to call for him but to no avail. Then again Kearney’s left seemed to be goosed after that insane bad-for-your-own-health tackle from Courtney Lawes tackle and he eventually received heavy strapping on it late in the game.

    I think for Ireland it’s time to leave the O’Gara era behind, great a servant as he has been. That said, I fully expect him to start Ireland’s remaining games and the annointed Paddy Jackson to be benching, assuming Sexton’s fitness rules him out. Seeing as Madigan hasn’t started enough big games at for Leinster 10 as of yet (H-Cup this year have been at 15), you have to feel that Jackson and Keatley are ahead in the pecking order.

    As for the RTE coverage… it’s been bollocks for ages, primarily because of Hook. Hook is insufferable an their commentary teams aren’t particularly good either. I would only watch it to see what comically egocentric sloblock Hook bilges out next, not for analysis. McGurk’s guff levels can be enjoyable but he’s far too willing to entertain Hook’s own brand of crapulence.

  3. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  February 11, 2013

    I’m so sick and tired of the “Cork Con Mafia” that has had a strangle hold on RTE’s rugby meeja dealings.

    Donal Lenihan as the self appointed ROG promoter and protector. Then you’ve got Frankie’s business promotions in the middle of a public broadcast while always plugging his old club at any given chance. All this backed up with the presence of Ralph Keyes??? What is he able to contribute over other retired players is beyond puzzling. To have 3 men from the same stable present in a public organisation doesn’t only look bad, it is bad and painful to endure. All I can say is thankfully the BBC exist.

    As for George. He’s bat-shit crazy so I don’t mind what comes out of his trap, sometimes it can be amusing but he does prevent any form of reasoned debate.

  4. Thank you – I thought I was going crazy, as I watched the match with my wife and my dog, neither a rugby stronghold. By the end of the match, his performance had reduced me to a sort of mad laughter (I think that was when he threw the ball at Mike Ross or maybe when he conceded a penalty for not releasing) – and then… nothing from the panel. Not a peep.

    When Sexton plays well or badly, the panel analyse it (as they should). Yesterday, all Brent Pope could do (presumably in fear of his job) was talk vaguely about how Ireland’s kicking game had let us down.

  5. Ben

     /  February 11, 2013

    Have to agree with you on Hook but the more you complain about him the happier RTE are because it means people are watching. Best way to get rid of him and the berk McGuirk is to stop watching them. Ratings will drive change.

    Also agree that ROG had a poor game but then so too did many of the team. I don’t think it is a ‘dereliction of duty’ by Lenihan not to ‘diss’ one of the legends of the game and a clubmate.

    The panel should analyse but using Hook as the yardstick to beat ROG with is hardly fair given that you have rightly said that Hook’s opinions are worthless.

    • I don’t agree, especially about Lenihan. Lenihan is there to analyse the game, not to protect the reputation of affiliated players, be they legends or otherwise. The public deserve analysis that is fair, intelligent and contributes to an appreciation of the match.

      There were indeed plenty of poor perfroamces, as you say. We’re not asking that ROG be singled out for a video nasty, merely that the analysis is balanced and objective. The panel were certainly happy to talk about Healy’s (appalling) display at great length. They’ve been happy to dump on Sexton when he hasn’t played well. But one man apparently gets shielded from all criticism. It’s ridiculous.

  6. Agree entirely on Rog. Honestly think Sexton was playing fine, but our dropsies when he was on were awful – with the weather no excuse, this was basic stuff.

    I think we’re in serious trouble now without JS. It’s a huge ask for any of the young(ish) tens to come in to the side mid-tournament. Jackson appears to be ahead in the pecking order, given he started for the Wolfhounds, but this Ulster fan doesn’t think he’s quite ready for test rugby and would choose Madigan. Big, big ask.

    However, Kidney will stick with Rog, we’ll be awful, he won’t get a new contract and we can start again come the summer.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  February 11, 2013

      Well at least you found a positive. As depressing as that is, I suppose we have something to look forward to.

    • Thanks Larry – we’re going to look in more depth at what can be done in the Scotland game as we learn more about whether Sexton is available or not. Suffice it to say, the coaching team are in a hole of their own making by refusing opportunities to give Madigan or Jackson match-time off the bench when the opportunities were there in the summer and November.

      • That’s the worst part: its totally their own making. Kidney’s face when Sexton got injured said it all about his confidence in ROG (or lack thereof). But why has he then refused to try any alternative? They may not be up to it but, if they are never tried, we simply can’t know.

  7. Jim Glennon gave us all 7/10

     /  February 11, 2013

    It’s the modern media belief that having a clueless, contrary pundit who winds people up is essential because it gets people talking about their coverage. If you look back over past years, it’s clear that RTE think that Hook and Popey are some kind of hilarious double act and we can’t get enough of them.

    Fair play to Shane Horgan last week, keeping his cool as George alternated between shouting over him and outright condescension.

  8. Len

     /  February 11, 2013

    I have to agree with you on this. I cursed when I saw sexton pull up as I knew a) he’d be out for possibly the rest of the six nations and maybe longer and b) it meant ROG coming off the bench. After his abject showing in the AIs when he looked like someone who just couldn’t be bothered I felt that coming into the 6n his continued involvement was yet another example of Deccis Red bias (of which we have a fairly large collection). I know others have made the point that none of the other out halves in waiting have any real experience at test level and that the 6n is not really the place to debut players. I disagree with this. There is a big step up between HC/Pro 12 and Test rugby but its a step that any budding international needs to make. The Summer and Autumn Internationals are generally against SA, OZ and NZ with some token side added to the AIs. Surly asking someone to make their international test debut against one of the big three has to be worse than expecting them to do it against Italy or Scotland? And giving them a cap against also ran opposition (like Fiji in the AI) tells you nothing really about how they will perform at the top level. What really worries me now is we have three more games left in this years 6n, therefore we have three more games to suffer through with the shadow of ROG at the helm. We’ll also have to put up with Decci bemoaning the lack of game time being given to the other out halves. Its past time ROG hung up the international boots, funnily enough I seem to remember having a similar thought about Humps when ROG was trying to break through.

    I have to say that Earls had a brilliant game, in his proper position and proved that he is still an outstanding winger. I would worry that Healy will be sighted and will be out for two to three games so we can assume that Kilcoyne will come in to replace him.

    On a separate note I felt the ref had a reasonably good game but seem to be unable to ref the break down in a consistent manner. At one point an english player held on on the ground for a few seconds while isolated, england recycled the ball and a few phases later Kearney went to ground in a similar circumstance and was blown up almost immediately.

  9. Manntach

     /  February 11, 2013

    On the issue of there not being a precedent for Kearney to take kicks – I’m not sure this should matter. Surely the idea is to utilise the best skills on the pitch? To my mind, that meant giving a 26-year-old left-peg the ball when we had several penalties on the right touchline. Even more so after it became clear Ronan hadn’t the power (his first penalty to touch JUST made it).

    This – on-the-pitch – problem is not unrelated to the lack of off-the-pitch criticism: reverance for a great player is preventing a serious discussion of what he is and isn’t able for. The question for the media and the Irish coaching staff is whether or not they want Ronan to retire from test rugby with his ego or his reputation intact. At this stage, the latter is in some peril.

    • The point about the kicking is very true. ROG has looked underpowered kicking from hand for most of the last year (he had a leg injury last season, i don’t know if its related to that). It’s interesting how often Munster have gotten Zebo involved in the kicking out of hand this season, especially from their own half trying to get up the pitch.

    • Oh you’re dead right, Kearney should have been taking those kicks – but that’s another issue I guess. We were more alluding to the fact that Tremenjus was saying it as a means to avoid criticising ROG. But yes, Heaslip as captain should have made the call and given the ball to Rob.

      • Manntach

         /  February 11, 2013

        Ah, yeah – I didn’t make it clear that I understood the context. When I started out I was going to gripe about the infallibility of the 10 in Irish rugby culture, but a ROG lament took over. There should be a precedent for Rob (or the player with the best ability in the context) to take the kicks – the other issue you mention, WoC. There’s no harm in the out-half not being able to do everything.

      • montigol

         /  February 12, 2013

        Kearney spent ages in the warm up taking long clearance kicks to the touchline. He has taken right-touchline penalties before from memory, as Dennis Hickie used also to do. It’s shocking that this kind of detail is not employed.

  10. Yossarian

     /  February 11, 2013

    McGurk has always fancied himself as a pundit and never assumed the role of host the way bill o’hurlihey did,too fond of his own voice/opinion.
    As for the knowledgeable viewers,you might be giving too much credit to a lot of the rugby going public.the cheer ROGs arrival was greeted with was something reserved for the Messiahs second coming,like a lot of the people didn’t realise the game was up on 30mins with his arrival. I was in fear after zebo went off as I knew we were one injury away from ROGs appearance.

  11. There was a very interesting moment when Sexton got injured and everyone realised ROG was coming on. The camera shot up to Kidney and he looked totally distraught, as if he knew that injury alone was the end of his contract. If he felt like that though, why was ROG on the bench? Why has he refused to try anyone else out over the past few years?

    If Sexton got injured in a Leinster game, there would not be much panic about Madigan coming on (yes Sexton is far advanced but Madigan can deliver). If ROG got injured in a Munster game, half the fans would be happy because it would mean Keatley could come on. Maybe these guys (including Jackson) aren’t international standard but two things for sure, ROG isn’t anymore and we will never know if the others are until they are tried.

    On Heaslip, I questioned his selection as captain (not the demotion of BOD but Heaslip as successor). The jury is very much out on him. His performance was actually ok – apart from those two high profile dropped balls – but he does not seem like a captain.

    You would hope the IRFU is now advanced in the process of isolating successors to Kidney…but I very much doubt it.

    • Interesting point Curates, must confess to not picking up on that. Could have been because our heads were planted in our hands at that point.

    • 2 dropped balls and 3 penalties for Heaslip. No way did he look like a captain.

      • Mistakes are mistakes: they can happen and have nothing to do with leadership. Unfortunately, he doesn’t look to have a good grasp on proceedings as a captain either. Always thought Best would have been a better choice and will be around come 2015. Lets see what a new coach does.

        Didn’t realise Heaslip conceded 3 penalties. The two dropped balls look very bad and stand out. The rest of his game was ok though (tackles, carries, rucks hit, control at the scrum).

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 11, 2013

        Robshaw made 7.9% of Englands tackles and forced zero turnovers. Heaslip made 10% of Irelands and forced two turnovers. Robshaw MOM and a great captain. Heaslip pilloried by all and sundry and likened to a deer in headlights by some, even “frightened” at the anthems, and most definitely not captains material.
        I though both had middling games,SOB should be at 6 to free up Heaslip and Robshaw should be on the bench for Armitage, its all about perceptions and what people perceive you to be.
        Heaslip is perceived as laid back, Robshaw and POM(future captain in waiting) are perceived to be leaders and thats the narrative.

        • Leinsterlion, I know you are keen to defend all things great and Leinster, and trash all things Munster-related, but you are stretching the facts to suit your own argument. Showing %ages of the team’s tackles is a new one one me, I hve to say. Heaslip is a hard-worker and got up and made his tackles. But that’s the least that should be expected of him. The two turnovers in the ESPN scrum stats refer to turnovers lost, not won. And three penalties is an expensive day out for a captain. Heaslip has always been a player with good disciline and rarely gives away stupid penalties, so we know he can do better than that. Finally, Heaslip’s carrying looks lacklustre at the moment. He has been a great yard-maker in the past but eight carries for two metres is pretty feeble.

          We wouldn’t write him off as captain material yet, but this was not a good day for him.

      • Actually, whiff, prior to the Wales game the BBC showed Heaslips carrying stats from 2012 internationals and they were awful. I believe the quote was “not what you expect of an international no. 8”. I’m sick to the back teeth of Yoda’s selections (“You’ve 2 HEC games for Munster have you? Why don’t I ring Tom Court and tell him where to go?”), and the blinkered Munster bias of cheerleaders like Lenihan and Shilling Sheehan, but there’s no question that appointing Heaslip as captain is a mistake. Only his captaincy stopped him being replaced on Sunday, and the sight of players repeatedly and reflexively turning to BOD for decisions was embarrassing.

  12. awm

     /  February 11, 2013

    I watched the match with seven Englishmen, and amused them greatly with my animated irritation when watching numerous drop balls and awful decision making. Sexton, albeit with slow ball, did not align the back line in offence well enough. We took ball statically, and did not exploit space well enough. I just felt sorry for ROG; he was never going to be better. My companions also realised the goose was cooked for Ireland when Sexton hobbled off, which is a sad indictment of a once great player…

    Against Scotland, Jackson is the man. He is not ready. But of the three, he is the most ready, with the most big game experience, and is defensively solid. However, if anyone watched Castres Ulster, the sea change when Jackson entered the game was palpable. He just has time on the ball. One of Madigan or Keatley should be on the bench; it is time for O’Gara to get a “sudden foot injury”, and be dropped, and blood our next generation.

    Ps. The BBC coverage is streets ahead of RTE’s, except for Inverdale. Although, the hilarity factor is high when he does his dead-behind-the-eyes look when the knowledgeable man speaks in his ear.

  13. I’ve been finding McGurk particularly infuriating these last few weeks. His almost incessant interrupting and talking over the panel (mostly Shane Horgan and Conor O’Shea it seems but maybe that’s my bias cos they’re the ones I want to hear from) drove me nuts. I know they’re very different media but there’s so much more pleasure to be taken from pundits on radio (OTB of course) where they’re given the time and space to explain their ideas.

  14. Can’t disagree with what was said about ROG, he had a very poor game. But for consistency, I think WoC need to look at one of the worst performers on the day, our beloved captain, Jamie Heaslip. He had an appalling game, he did lead on tackles and carries, but some of those knock-ons you wouldn’t expect from a junior B team. Also 3 penalties against him? He was leading by example.

    Also, there seems to be one element missing from this article, or maybe I missed it. Everyone is beating up on ROG, but ROG didn’t pick himself onto the bench, Kidney did. Perhaps we need to look at Deccie’s choices. You would think with Jackson making the Wolfhounds that he would be in a position to step up to the bench for the Senior internationals. Personally I don’t think he’s up to international level yet and I think Madigan would be a better option.

    Going back to Deccie’s choices, I know everyone goes on about there being so many leaders on the pitch, but I think Deccie made a mistake in giving the captaincy to Heaslip. I don’t think he’s ready for it and I think that he’s comfortable with it, no matter how much he talks about wanting to jump over the table and kiss Deccie.

    As for Hook, he’s a contrarian in the Dunphy mould, plain and simple. He’s there to disagree with everyone and annoy the public…a job which he does very well.

    • Firstly Heaslip is mentioned above.
      Secondly though the RTE panel certainly seem to have no issue discussing him, deserved or otherwise, which I think perfectly illustrates the point of this article, in that one man seems to get away with all manner of poor performance without a hint of critique.

    • Yep, Heaslip played badly, as mentioned in the article. And fair point about Deccie being culpable. All true, but as Shane says above, the article was specifically about the RTE panel’s protection of one player, rather then Ireland’s shortcomings in general. But there’s lots of other talking points for sure, and we will be atlking about the 10 situation for the next game later in the week.

    • Actually, I don’t agree with the “you can’t blame ROG for being picked” line of argument. As someone very pithily put it above, you can leave with your ego or your reputation but it is difficult to leave with both. By not retiring from international rugby, ROG has to take a good portion of the blame for ROG still being available come the internationals.

      It will be interesting to see if BOD suffers from any similar ailments when his standard inevitably wanes.

      • You make an imortant point Ronan. Even if it was a case of simply ‘not retiring’ it would hold, but as if to compound it, ROG continually uses the media to canvass for a reater role in the playing team.

  15. mikebrad

     /  February 11, 2013

    I’m a nordie ooking in who rarely sees rte coverage. At what level did hook play rugby? If so wouldn’t it have been so far back as to be of little value in the professional era?

    Ireland were just not good enough yesterday. It reminded me of the Ulster – Northampton game with the visitors not being spectacular but playing more intelligently and the home team dropping everything that came their way.

    • Dava

       /  February 12, 2013

      Club level and managed several teams including the USA who he took to their first World Cup with a certain Eddie O’Sullivan as assistant coach. He is actually highly knowledgeable and very clever if somewhat dismal and depressing glass half empty kinda pundit.

      • mikebrad

         /  February 12, 2013

        Thanks for the info – never knew his background.

    • “No other team in the championship has a reserve of such quality in this crucial area.”

      Oh dear.

      • You just could not make this sort of thing up. Welcome to Bizarro-world, folks.

      • Len

         /  February 11, 2013

        “Ireland did not play badly;” – was he watching a different game to me? His column is pure fiction. If you hadn’t seen the game and only read his waffle you’d come away thinking sexton, Gilroy and Kearney were responsible for all our kicking woes and that our saviour ROG nearly turned the game around on his own. I give up the print media annoy me to much.

  16. RDS Curva Nord

     /  February 11, 2013

    Super post. Too right.
    It’s not just RTE though. Look at the print media this morning (well, their online version, who can afford actual papers these days…) there is not a whiff of criticism. It’s bizarre. Youd expect it from Conor George & all at the Examiner…et tu Thornley?
    Will he start now if Sexy is injured? Bejaypers.

    • Thanks RDS. Indeed, you are quite right, and it is a point worth highlighting that this morning’s papers have picked up the baton from the RTE panel and are running with it.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  February 11, 2013

        You could argue that the panel therefore has a greater responsibility as they set the tone for the rest (who are obviously extremely lazy) to follow.

  17. part time punk

     /  February 11, 2013

    The most annoying thing about all this is that we actually have more quality depth at 10 then ever before but it just hasn’t been used, bar Jackson playing Fiji I think. If Sexton is out, ROG will start and the stick to beat Jackson/Madigan/Keatley with will be that they’ve never played in a big 6 Nations match. We all know who’s responsible for that. If one of them is on the bench they’ll only come on for 5 mins once the game is either won or lost. Time for any of them to start and one of the others to bench

  18. Rocky

     /  February 11, 2013

    You could argue that none of the three are ready for international duty yet but there is only one way to find out if that’s true – give them a chance. The trouble is that, with DK there, it will not happen as long as ROG is “fit” during this tournament.
    The other thing is that a large slice of blame must surely be apportioned to the coaching team. We were basically inept in terms of our ball skills but also, we were very passive in defence (compared with the English line speed) and utterly static in defence (except for BOD’s pass to Earls). We used the maul at halfway when it just wasted time and never looked like getting into the English 22. We were so slow at getting the ball away that they had all the time in the world to organise their defence (Murray was awol from the base of the ruck a fair number of times as well)
    Add in the bad luck with the injuries and it was a most depressing day for Irish supporters. The big issue is that it seems unlikely to change unless there is a major change of coaching staff.

    • Rava

       /  February 11, 2013

      Owen Farrell is 21 and Dan Biggar is 23. Id suggest Jackson and Keatley have every bit as much “experience” as these guys. I don’t buy this argument “none are ready”. We use it far too much. The only way to find out if they have the cajones is to get them in there.
      and there isn’t really any point lambasting RTE for not telling us what we already knew. The only person to blame for ROG is Declan Kidney.

  19. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  February 11, 2013

    The coaching staff, mainly Kidney, are responsible for the poor bench selection and its effect on Ireland’s ability to execute their own game plan.
    They are not at fault for the 9 unforced errors. Too many players were not performing at the standard expected of them and if there is a base level of performance many were miles below that too. The finger of blame can be pointed and many faces.

  20. On the match itself, were you guys a bit disappointed with Irelands gameplan? I thought we tried too play far too much rugby. Even in the last 5 or ten minutes we were trying to score from our own 22 which i thought was crazy. I remember when Ireland won in Twickenham in 2010 there were similar, if not quite as bad conditions but Ireland let England have the ball all they wanted and ireland just took their chances once they got decent territory.

  21. The Burner

     /  February 11, 2013

    Since when did Ian Madigan become Ireland’s greatest rugby player?

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 11, 2013

      At the exact moment Johnny Sextons hammy snapped.

  22. coreilly

     /  February 11, 2013

    After that performance there can surely be no justification for starting radge against the Scots.

    • Len

       /  February 11, 2013

      Since when does Decci need justification for any of his odd ball selections?

  23. TJ Hooker

     /  February 11, 2013

    Even at his peak ROG was only ever worth his place because of his near-flawless kicking in the crunch games (and the lack of any real competition for the out-half role). Nowadays he’s only just about fit for last-15-minute scenarios where the game has been won and it needs closing out (i.e. kick the ball away). Watching him brought on to the field in catch-up situations is a desperate sight – whenever he attempts to hold onto the ball I avert my eyes as the feral opposition close in, ROG swiftly assuming the fetal position on the floor…

    As for Hook it beggars belief that this spoofer is taken seriously. I can not watch RTE between himself and McGurk – caught a bit of Horgan the other day on the panel and I thought I say hatred in his eyes whenever Hook started shiting on…But as other posters have said it seems RTE believe in having the controversialist pundit for drawing in the casual viewer.

    • Stevo

       /  February 11, 2013

      He’s no longer even fit for last-15-minute scenarios TJ, as he demonstrated against Argentina by gifting them a try in the closing minutes.

  24. In your preview to the 6N I predicted a low-standard tournament lacking in excitement. Week one looked to have proved me wrong but the three games this weekend were abject spectacles for the game of rugby. I argued some weeks ago that only Gatty would get a decent club coaching position but to be fair Lancaster is doing his stuff by creating a team that plays by numbers and makes few mistakes….it looks enough to win a GS!

    We on the other hand continue to look like a poorly coached team that has I believe beaten one top 8 team (in 10 attempts) since the RWC Oz win. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck etc…………

    And now to RTE and the panel. Since early in Sexton’s career it seemed to appear that Hook didn’t like him, or certainly didn’t apply the same standards to other players that he applied to Jonny. The famous roar in Croker caught George’s eye and I recall him bringing it up again when Jonny slagged ROG for dropping a ball in Thomond last year. Aside from the fact that ROG can dish it out as well as (if not better than) anyone else, he surely doesn’t need or desire Hook’s protection. I like you wouldn’t be surprised if the media played a part in the move to France.

    As you point out the real travesty is that viewers who tune into rugby just for the 6N’s are now subjected to a sort of circus both on and off the pitch. Yesterday there was little if any correlation between the stats that were appearing in front of our eyes and the on-screen ramblings. Allied with the disgraceful booing of English players and a partial disinterest of the crowd, the 6N’s looks sicker and sicker by the year.

    • The booing after and noise during kicks was just shocking. You don’t get that at the provinces, so how does it get into Landsdowne Road? It didn’t bother Farrell anyway – unlike the Thomond Park silence, which completely threw him.

      The international game in Ireland really appears to be attracting an increasingly divergent audience to the provinces. You have to wonder if the abject and wayward coverage of rugby in the mainstream media has fed into this.

      Personally speaking, I do not go to 6 Nations games anymore and increasingly struggle to motivate myself to watch the tournament. I know fans from other provinces that have similar feelings.

      • DaveW

         /  February 11, 2013

        I think that’s part of the problem. People who go to games week-in week-out know that you keep quiet during the kick, regardless of who is kicking, or why – and you respect that tradition.I’d be in the same boat as you, I don’t go to Irish games anymore – mainly because of the price – though that’s just me.

        With the national games, I don’t think those there go to games that regularly. It’s more of a day out. As such, certain things that might be taken for granted at a game in Thomond\the RDS\Ravenhill\the Sportsground are lost.

        I though the booing yesterday wasn’t warranted. I’ve no problem booing a ref if he makes the wrong call, but booing the kicker taking advantage… nah.

      • The booing at 6-Nations games, I believe, stems from the volume of corporate seats at these games. Free booze, lunch and a game for corporate ‘fans’. We have all sat beside this guy at a game, in and out of his seat like a yo-yo, up and back to the bar, screaming abuse at players who are not even on the teamsheet! You won’t find this guy watching their local club or province week-in week-out. They have a loose understanding of the game and the traditions.

      • Check out this piece on the Score http://thescore.thejournal.ie/18-favourite-quotes-hook-pope-miriam-791343-Feb2013/?utm_source=twitter_self, any one who had the sense to call out Hook for what he is was red thumbed galore. Granted the Score is only a hack site but it’s an interesting insight in the mindset of the ‘divergent’ audience Curates mentioned above, probably the same idiots who were booing too. On a more serious level it also highlights the insidious nature of Hook’s commentary that so many are convinced he’s on the money! His piece in yesterdays Indo was also really quite shocking

      • Fetcher

         /  February 12, 2013

        This is only anecdotal evidence but I heard at least two people say it was their first and last Six Nations game, that it had ticked the box and that was it. Other comments that they’d stand in the rain for their county (which was listed as Clare and Limerick) but not for a rugby game. I guess it’s just a different audience that attend Six Nations games due to the corporate tickets as mentioned above.

  25. HalfEd

     /  February 11, 2013

    Good post lads. I had a sinking feeling once Johnny went down. He wasn’t controlling the game at the time but he is intelligent and skilful enough to have made the required changes. He was also a massive loss as a leader. Rog doesn’t have any variety in his game, we know that, but the big problem yesterday was his “bread and butter” plays didn’t come close to the level he (and we) expect. There were at least two occasions when we witnessed a nightmare situation for any Irish team – Rog trying to run with the ball in hand. He didn’t have options at times, but Rog should never, ever, take the ball into contact as first receiver. If doesn’t result in a turnover, it is usually go-backward ball.

    Of course the RTE panel saw and recognised the substandard performance from Rog, but it wasn’t a surprise to see it go unmentioned post match. It will be interesting to hear Shaggy’s thoughts on OTB this week, where has a less oppressive environment. For what it’s worth, I’d go with Jackson next time out. While he has his faults, he is starting consistently for one of the top teams in Europe this year. And, as has been pointed out, an alternative to Rog has to be blooded in a non-Ireland XV / Wolfhounds environment – why not now?

    I’d add limited leadership to Jamie’s list of faults yesterday. A high tackle count is one way of leading, but this Irish team was crying out for direction, especially after Johnny left the pitch. There’s a large Paulie shaped hole in the pack and we need to fill it for this type of match. Jamie will need to step up in future.

  26. Living in England I am at least spared Hook and the Con boys so forgive me if I stray away from the thrust of the Blog piece and get this off my chest.

    I had been fearful of a Sexton injury early in a match requiring RoG to do more than the comical 10 minute cameo of the last 18 months and so it came to pass. In a match set up for his famous “game mgt”, kicking the corners, putting the squeeze on the opposition, and yes dropping his goals he never once got the ball into England’s 22. (I saw a stat today that we had the ball in England’s 22 for 44secs in the 2nd half, 44 secs!!!). He gave hospital passes to all and sundry and when not doing that got caught in possession and gave up penalties on at least 2 occasions.

    We lost by 6 despite being level on the scoreboard and a man up at 56mins. At that moment England’s line-out and scrum were both in major trouble and they were, if not quite for the taking, doubting. But we lost to a team that were competent, kept their error count down by playing no risk rugby, utilised their bench and who kicked their goals. However if we played them next week they would beat us by 20pts at least because we have let the genie out of the bottle now. This was the test they set themselves and they have passed it. My english rugby friends are cock-a-hoop. They will be 20% better for it.

    We stumble on. A genuine Grand Slam chance gone. O’Driscoll’s last season rendered irrelevant on every front now. Boom and bust rugby. Deccie’s list of howlers include the composition of the bench (3 of whom came on in the last 4 minutes!), the make-up of the backrow, the captaincy choice (Heaslip looks utterly overwhelmed by it), the tactics (did he look at the weather forecast?) and the total failure to develop back-ups for J10. He actually said on the BBC post-match that he thought RoG had done well “for somebody with very little rugby since Heineken5” yet Keatley, Jackson & Madigan are all playing regularly. None of them are a patch on Sexton or RoG in his pomp but all of them represent a better option than RoG now.

    Utterly, utterly frustrated and to rub salt in the wounds the Patrons Club pack turned up today!

    • I too am exiled in England so feel your pain. Great post with loads of good points. Not least the weather forecast. Not only were the tactics dodgy, one could argue that the selection was as well.

  27. Bushmills

     /  February 11, 2013

    If you thought you have problems with broadcasters, spare a thought for those of us in the USA. BBC America has the rights to the Six Nations, but chooses to only show 1 game per weekend. After new numerous complaints, they still hold to their line that they have to “balance the needs of all their viewers”. That means endless repeats of Top Gear, Gordon Ramsey and God-knows-what-else instead of live matches. So we had France v Wales in stunning HD with all the BBC punditry, but are forced to scour the internet for grainy streams of the Ireland game. I would take George Hook in return for a broadcast!

    • Bushmills I’ve been living in Rio de Janeiro for 3 years now and although there is a HD broadcast on ESPN HD for 6N I don’t have cable so I too have to scour for a decent stream come match day. I’m sure you have your own favourites but i’ve had a lot of luck with BBC coverage on Stream2watch(dot)me and if that fails the NZ coverage on the rugby channel vipbox(dot)tv is watchable.

  28. Stevo

     /  February 11, 2013

    I was just listening to Hook on his Newstalk show there, an arena where he likes to take on a more avuncular air compared to his clown-like behaviour on television. He says he’s been getting a lot of criticism on twitter for the last 24 hours, the gist of which is why he’s unwilling to criticise Ronan O’Gara. His justification was that Ronan O’Gara is not Ireland’s out-half, he’s Ireland’s reserve out-half. Don’t ask me what that’s supposed to mean. He then went on to say that he would continue to be the reserve until a suitable replacement appeared and that while some people believe that O’Gara’s abilities have faded, others disagreed.

  29. Leinsterlion

     /  February 11, 2013

    No mention of Conor “bus pass” Murray? Slow service all day. Hes a crap version of Mike Philips with a worse kicking game, Youngs passing/general play was like Usain Bolt-like compared to his. Irelands slow play stemmed from his delivery. Things then descended into a Dante-esque vision of rugby when O’Garas zimmer frame sunk into its customary position 20 meteres behind the gain line dribbling aimless kicks left right and center.
    Watching the seemingly rudderless international side is turing me into a nihilist. Australia in 2011, Argentina in November and 45 mins against Wales are the only bright spots in the bleak canvas of rugby that Declan Kidney has produced.Time to resume the countdown until the end of this lame duck junta.

    • Leinster Lion, you’re boring me. Murray played well. You never miss an opportunity to put the boot into Munster players, whether it’s deserved or not. You frequently complain about Kidney’s Munster bias. Your anti-Munster bias puts that in the ha’penny place. Surely there are better ways of showing your heart-felt support for your own province.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 11, 2013

        Anti Munster bias? Eh, I think Murray and O’Gara deserve a fair amount of opprobrium and ire. I have consistently criticised anyone who doesnt measure up, no matter their province. It just so happens DK has selected a few Munster players (who have not set the world alight) at the expense of players from other provinces. I’m hardly clamouring for McFadden to start on the wing or McLaughlin at 6 or Redden for example.
        Pointing out bad performances is not putting the boot in. Youngs kicked twice as much as Murray and a large proportion of Murrays kicks were poor. Im not expecting Murray to channel the spirit of Yachvilli, but a 9 with a varied kicking game is essential in the modern game. Murray made 59 passes to Youngs 35, but Youngs was more effective with less ball. For the amount of times Murray got his hands on the ball he did nothing with it, he was essentially shifting it on and abdicating responsibility. We went side to side in an aimless fashion, the 9 has a big say in that. To say the 9 played well in a dull attacking display that was so limited in vision, is denial. Compare Youngs to Murray and tell me he played well.

    • The Burner

       /  February 12, 2013

      A bad Mike Phillips? Didnt Murray completely out play him last week? I have to laugh at ye Leinster lads sometimes. Constantly blaming Munster players for poor Irish performances. O’Gara didnt play well, It happens every player even O Driscoll. The witch hunt ye are orchastrating against an Irish legend is vile, I have read it across numerous blogs and websites. I could descend in petty slagging of Leinster players but Im a bigger man than that. The tribalism that some people resort to after a poor Irish performance is hypocritical in the extreme. The same people were toasting him in 09.

      • Xyz

         /  February 12, 2013

        Senor Lion doesn’t speak for all Leinster fans when he criticises Murry. I thought Murray had a game in line with the rest of the team at the weekend (poor to medium) but he has been pretty damn good this season over all.

        I’d toast O’Gara now if he could play like he did in 09 – let’s face it, the 09 vintage ROG wouldn’t have pinned the English back on Sunday. The current vintage doesn’t trust his own kicking from hand, so why should we?

      • Xyz

         /  February 12, 2013

        *would have, obviously.

      • O’Gara played badly. It’s been discussed at length. I’m a Munster fan & I’ve no problem admitting that & saying he’s been kept in the squad too long to the detriment of long term development of the team. I think I’m on record of saying all of this before.

        I deeply regret opening my mouth in the first place but hey in for a penny in for a pound. You consistently take an anti-Munster view to your analysis of anything to do with Irish rugby. To me, it’s a bias as much as a pro-Munster one. On one level your bias is your business but on the other this is a public forum for the sharing of views and people are entitled to call you on it.

        Pointing out bad performances is one thing but “Conor ‘bus pass’ Murray” and “crap Mike Phillips” is pretty pejorative language. It’s a theme of yours when discussing Munster players that moves away from analysis & towards slagging off. I have no issue with people offering analysis of players & games, I’m not wild about the latter, regardless of provincial origin

        For the record, from where I was sitting, Murray did his best behind a pack that repeatedly destroyed its own platform and last week, as mentioned by The Burner (even tho we part company on the idea that we’re organizing a witch hunt against O’Gara) he was the better scrum half on the pitch. There were a hella load of issues on the pitch on Sunday, I don’t think Murray was the main one.

        I don’t expect you to agree with me & it’s your right not to. I’d just ask for a touch more civility in your analysis. Especially when we’re all wearing green.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 12, 2013

        I clamored for Darces head since his comback from his broken arm up until he gained some semblance of form in late 2012. I have stated on numerous occasions that this year is make or break for a large contingent of Leinster players namely Toner and McFadden.
        Im not going to even bother defending my arguments if your only retort is the cry of “tribalism!”.
        I’ll readily concede Murray had a good game….against Wales, which is one good performance amidst a sea of dross. If his selection was part of an overall youth policy with the WC in mind you wouldnt hear a peep from me, in fact I’d commend his selection. However his selection flies in the face of Deccies win the games as they come policy with O’Gara as poster boy, and (maybe in a case of confirmation bias) feeds into the perception that young guy from Munster will always get the nod over other young guys.
        If the Irish team was picked with the WC in mind I would not criticise any young players selection until they had a good run in the jersey.
        That however is not the case, and selections of the likes of Earls at center and Murray at 9 and POM(at various backrow positions) over their more accomplished provincial rivals begs to be pointed out and queried.
        In my opinion any one not around for 2014 should be discarded legend or not. I have stated this on numerous occasions and am completely in favor of stripping Drico of the captaincy and dropping him from the national side. His continued selection if he is not in WC plans is pointless and holds back Irish rugby. Im an Irish rugby fan first a Leinster fan second. That said I think he has two years of HC rugby left in him.

        • Leinsterlion – easy, tiger (or should that be lion). Your posts have consistently shown a certain flavour, shall we say, and yuo’ve been called on it. It’s well and good citing a couple of Leinster squad men you don’t really rate as proof of your lack of bias, but it doesn’t really stack up against what’s gone before. So please keep the Munster-baiting to a minimum.

          I cannot understand your issue with Murray in the team. Yes, he lost his way last season in a poorly coached Munster team, but this year he has been one of their best players. He was excellent against Argentina and Wales, and was not one of our major problems on Sunday. He’d a decent game. Just because Ben Youngs had a very good game does not mean Murray was rubbish. Who is your preferred selection at 9 anyway? Eoin Reddan, who is having a poor season at Leinster? Or Marshall, or Boss?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 12, 2013

        My preference would be Marshall or Boss. See how they measure up, discard if useless and revert to the incumbent, quite simple really. I’d apply that selection criteria to everyone, sink or swim, England “tour of hell 98” style. That tour gave them the spine of WC2003.
        Munster-baiting? Im hardly leaving Supermacs vouchers and signed copies of O’Garas autobiography in a bear pit (joking, dont ban me). There may be an element of bias in my barbs, but two acceptable Murray performances hardly warrant the bunting being thrown up, ditto for POM. Earls hasn’t shown anything at center(wing is a different story) for me to retract my criticism. I’ll make no apologies for wanting the best players to be selected at international level.

  30. Fascinating posts guys, but am I the only one who recalls being filled with doubts when J Sexton arrived on the pitch to replace Fellipe in Croke Park? Who knows whether Madigan, Jackson or Keatley are up to 6N level but we know for sure that ROG has passed his sell by date. We simply must try an alternative though the selection of Jackson would make me extremely nervous!

    Completely agree with all posters questioning DK’s bench selections. Our next game is against Scotland – what better opportunity to experiment can we expect to have?

    Re Heaslip and the captaincy (and as a regular user of the RefLink), I would have to say that I feel that he is a long way short of being ready for the role – the whingy tone he uses when talking to referees seems to me to be very unproductive and appears to sometimes get their back up. In addition I suspect he would be much better off concentrating on his own game.

    I feel that there is still much to play for in this 6N but all pivots on DK utilising some vision and courage to select teams appropriate to the opposition and to the weather conditions. Neither applied yesterday.

  31. philip hanna

     /  February 11, 2013

    Agree that RoG is the maybe most overprotected species in rugby history.

    Played his club rugby behind the best club pack in Europe, played club and international rugby outside Ireland’s greatest ever passing scrum half (PS) and at international level could shovel it on to Ireland’s greatest ever player (BoD).

    Great player for Munster, very average at international level and out of his depth with the Lions.

    A more rational coach than O’Sullivan, who at one stage refused to drop him because it would hurt his confidence, would have preferred Humphries.

    Does anyone else prefer Madigan to Jackson?

    Sent from my iPad

    • Len

       /  February 11, 2013

      Yes I would prefer Madigan to Jackson on the basis that in the current circumstances Madigan would be helped ease into the role by playing with a back line that is mainly Leinster players he already knows. Bring in Reddan to replace Murray and you make life easier on him again (although I’m sure I’ll be shot for that suggestion). Mad Ian plays the kind of rugby we played in the first half against Wales which is how I see us beating other teams. It’s sink or swim time for the next gen or sink completely for Irl.

  32. Firstly, as we were discussing on Twitter earlier, I have mixed feelings on the Hook issue. On the positive side I enjoy his broadcasting on Newstalk, I respect how he spoke out about depression and men’s health issues, and he deals with an incredible amount of online abuse, yet keeps up a presence on Twitter. However as a rugby pundit he’s become a gross parody of himself. It’s hard to know how much of his commentary is what he actually thinks & how much of it is being controversial for the sake of it. George, please cop on before it’s too late. I’d have a much bigger axe to grind with Donal Lenihan & Frankie “my client” Sheahan. I know it’s been discussed but how the latter is allowed to commentate on a public service broadcaster is beyond me. I’m watching against the head as I type this & it perfectly illustrates the quality of Irish punditry that is available on RTE with (in this case) Alan Quinlan & Eddie O’Sullivan. Joanne Cantwell hosts really well, rather than, as mentioned about, fancying herself another pundit, she facilitates good debate.

    Regarding the match, ROG had an absolute howler, with Heaslip not far behind. I do think that the players on the pitch have to shoulder a lot of the blame of an all-round poor performace, but Kidney has dug himself into a massive hole by keeping ROG on the bench for as long as he has, and it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him for that, as unlucky as the two injuries were, for him and for my fantasy team!

    Why on earth was Mike Ross left on the pitch for nearly the whole match with the ground tearing up beneath him? can Fitzpatrick honestly not play 10 minutes even? Bizarre.

    We had a long chat on Twitter regarding the handling. One of my friends felt England gave each other more “sympathetic” passes. I’ll take that up to a point but as I said then, do you know what makes passes look sympathetic? Catching them. Much like the weather, the quality of passing is a mitigating circumstance, not an excuse. The English managed to hang onto the ball, we didn’t. We ruined almost any platform we created with unforced errors of our own making.

    I don’t want to go on about it too much because I think I’ve already talked about my pet peeve here – people leaving in their droves before the final whistle. I was lucky enough (& I still maintain lucky!) to be at the game and I honestly heard very little by way of booing. In my section, fans were trying to outsing each other but it was all in good fun. However, as with the South Africa game, the Irish “fans” started leaving with 10 mins to go & Ireland still within a score.

    I’m not interested in deciding who gets to come to rugby matches & whose support is more worthy. As noted in the article above, if you’re reading & commenting here you’re probably a big rugby fan. I think there’s nothing wrong with not being one either. I get we’re the exception rather than the rule. You’re welcome to come on a day out, as it were, if you are there to support the team wholeheartedly. If not, I’d humbly request you pass your ticket along.

    I appreciate that the current distribution system is an important source of revenue for the clubs but it seems to exclude a lot of people who really want to be there. I’m off to Murrayfield in 2 weeks & I just logged on and bought the tickets just like everyone else. Surely it’s time we look at that?

    Finally, I think it’s important to note it wasn’t all doom & gloom for Irish rugby. A mixed bag for the provinces, a somewhat fortunate win for the under 20s but an absolutely incredible result for the women’s team, duck-egging the English, who have been champions for 6 of the past 7 years, with a hat-trick by Alison Miller. Brilliant result, especially for what they go through to train & travel. I tip my hat to you ladies!

    • Great stuff Kate, thanks for commenting once again! Lots of great points, but the last one especially. An extraordinary result, when you consider the gulf in resources and playing numbers between the respective nations. That England team got to the World Cup final, narrowly losing out to the Silver Ferns, so to not only beat them – but whup them – was a real eye-opener. I switched over from the Scotland game to the live stream when I heard we were 20-0 up. They never gave England a sniff, all assured handling and clean lines. Careful you don’t show too much knowledge about them or you’ll be writing a guest piece about their Six Nations.

      And with BOD and Amy giving birth to a girl it was a doubly good weekend for the women’s game.

    • Fantastic stuff – I’m right with you on the ticketing and early departures.

  33. Can’t believe I forgot to mention the legends! Went down on Saturday and had an absolute ball. I’d really encourage everyone to go alone next time they’re in town. Great night out & a great cause. I heart Trevor Brennan 4eva!

  34. The other thing I left out in my mammoth comment is kudos to the English, especially Stuart Lancaster. They are a well-coached, consistent unit. Lancaster nailed his tactics & selections for yesterday’s game & the team executed well. In the year of an open championship the trophy will go to the most consistently competent team and it’s hard to see past the English for that. Best of British to them, it’s up to us to play ourselves into contention & hope the Welsh or French do us a favour. I still think we are a better team but we didn’t show it yesterday and that’s all that counts.

  35. Sam

     /  February 11, 2013

    The reality is if Jackson or Madigan had produced a performance à la O’Gara on Sunday, after the cameos against the Boks and Argentina, they would have got an absolute ribbing off the pundits and media and would never see the light of a matchday squad again under Kidney. I have to laugh at the person above who commented on his expression of dread seeing Johnny hobbling off, I noticed it too, as if even he realised his bench option at 10 having to play a significant role in the outcome of the match was disastrous. As it stands neither Jackson, Madigan or Keatley have been given the opportunity even for ten minutes to prove themselves at this level, so now we’re potentially facing an almost totally ineffective ROG starting the remainder of the 6Ns and his backups complete novices with no international test match experience to speak of whatsoever, nevermind in this championship. It’s comical really.

  36. Rava

     /  February 11, 2013

    At least the Pope has had the decency to admit he is too old ……….

  37. @darraghconboy

     /  February 11, 2013

    Too often these comment threads revert back to the same tired discussion over players and their respective provinces. It’s parochialism at it’s worst. When we talk about the Irish set up it shouldn’t be through blue or red tinted spectacles (or white or green for that matter). The national side should transcend those boundaries. Likewise, when (for example) people perceive ROG’s inclusion to be an example of Deccie’s pro Munster bias it’s extraordinarily unhelpful. I’d wager that ROG’s inclusion is because of his service to Ireland over the past ten years, not to Munster. I’m not having a go at Leinster fans, because we’re all capable of it, but when time after time these threads descend into people griping about Murray or O’Mahoney or even heaslip etc, well it’s tiresome. And boring. Anyway. Once again, not having a go at anyone, and here’s hoping that a big argument won’t ensue.

  38. Score with Sexton 0-6
    Score with ROG 6-6
    Only joking. Most Munster supporters will tell you ROG has been useless for 2 years. He contributed two drop goals last year and little else. The problem is he gets no criticism in the media and each match winning drop goal is greated with crys of worldclass. There is no independent rugby media in Ireland. Your choices are the yes men like Thornley, the clowns like Francis or the guys giving man of the match awards to their clients like Frankie.
    ROG was definately the worst on Saturday and the sooner he is gone the sooner JJ/Madigan/Keatley/Jackson can start getting serious gametime. Irish conservatism/incestous old boy network is what has prevented the international team achieving their potential. Farrell is younger than JJ. One is playing for a championship chasing international team and the other is playing for Munsters B team.

    • Fetcher

       /  February 12, 2013

      Farrell was playing for Saracens when JJ was playing for Rockwell. I think JJ will play for Ireland but if there isn’t a system to allow possible future professionals to develop at a younger age it’s comparing apples and oranges.

  39. Anonymous

     /  February 11, 2013

    Maybe darragh, as he is such a conservative coach, as has been sad before harder to get off the irish team than on it.

    Having said that, he does have a munster bias, if its 50:50 he’ll go with a munster player.
    Henry vs o’mahoney, it wasnt even 50:50, henry had been one of the best back rows in Hcup, yet he went with POM (who’s done well enough, but how well would henry have done?, dont really know.. prob see next match). Furthermore, he has a real disregard to Ulster players(I’d be fuming if was from ulster, half fuming as it is).

    Always felt ROG on bench was poor call, but knew dec would always have it that way. but , figured it wouldnt matter too much as he wouldnt be taking sexton off anyway.
    as soon as he went off, i opened up my lap top and knew the game as done. His first two penalties he didnt even make touch! been sayin it for years now, but he’s lost a phenomenal amount of yardage with his kick from hand. (compare this to madigan who has a massive boot).

    don’t think jacksons the second best OH, but hope against hope he starts the next games. The media have a lot to answer for, ROG is a professional and not above criticism. The papers and radio are quick enough to lambast heaslip. (who obviously had a poor game, with penalties and knock ons, think the captaincy put too much pressure on him, he looked like he was brickin it during the anthems).. but ROG was more obviously out of his depth.

    I trawled through the IT to see if could find any criticism. found it hidden away, it was in the players ratings by cummisky who gave him a 3 out of 10.

    Irish rugby media has been infuriating me for so long but this really takes the biscuit.

  40. jojo

     /  February 11, 2013

    quote of the weekend
    hook on o’gara
    ”best defensive outhalf in the world”

  41. jojo

     /  February 11, 2013

    that was me above anonymous

  42. Yossarian

     /  February 11, 2013

    Standard of RTE coverage was appalling. Just wrote a complaint. (complaints@rte.ie) i would urge people to do the same. paying a licence fee to watch Tom McGurk goad George Hook into an apoplectic rage isn’t what i am looking for when i tune in for analysis. Was at the game and couldn’t believe what i was seeing when i got home to watch it after.
    Massive Cork bias in the pundits (George Hook, Donal Lenihan, Ralph Keyes, Daire O’Brien and Frankie Sheehan) conflict of interest in Frankie “agent” Sheehan. Not discussing the pertinent point of game of no plan/10 who couldn’t execute it. sheer lack of professionalism from McGurk. Hooks comments totally at odds with the game stats.etc etc joke of show.

  43. Lamo

     /  February 11, 2013

    I don’t know what has everyone so upset. Just 99 short days until a new and exciting dawn for Irish Rugby. http://kidneyclock.net/

  44. Connachtexile

     /  February 11, 2013

    After seeing Jackson play live at the Sportsground in the Wolfhound’s game I wouldn’t be holding my breath that he’s the answer to Ireland’s 10 shirt. I think Jackson has actually hit a slump and hasn’t being playing well at all the last few weeks an while I rate him, based on his current form he shouldn’t in the team.

    If the RTE Rugby Media were a band they’d be called the ‘Cork Con Mafia featuring Shane Horgan’. As for replacing Hook with Quinlan God no. I already have to suffer through Flannery in TG4 and don’t honestly think I could take any more Quinlan as well. An while I don’t miss Setanta’s coverage I thought Emmet Bryne on the show was great why they didn’t sign him but that other dope tells you everything you need to know about RTE.

    • We have to disagree on Quinlan, since he retired he has been really insightful and interesting. And he has no innate Munster bias either – he was the only one on OTB to tip them to lose at home to Saracens in December.

  45. What I really would like someone to ask Deccie, someone in a position to pose such a question (Gerry, Conor George if either of you read these pages), is:
    “You have justified your selection of Heaslip as captain as part of a succession plan based on O’Driscoll not being around for the next world cup and that is acceptable. Do you not think you should apply the same logic to how you select your out-halves?!”
    It’s yours’ fellas!

  46. ABROG

     /  February 12, 2013

    The Hook, McGurk Punch and Judy show will be funny in a farcical way until Hook has a heart attack on screen. I pity the man.

    I’d love to have a video feed with the sound of the fans and the ref’s mic only. As much as I like going to games paying 90 squids to sit in the North stand is beyond my means so being spoonfed the ball on my couch is better than all the seats in any stadium. Consequently I find the BBC coverage to be more appealing as it’s less about imposing some incessant irrelevant narrative on the game and more like a couple of knowledgeable heads watching from their own couch.

    As for our new out half. A game against Scotland. What are we worrying about, if the young fellas can’t beat them we’ve no chance.

  47. Cleveland Frowns Fan

     /  February 12, 2013

    This message is a reply to Bushmills, complaining about BBC America in the United States carrying only one game:

    I live in the US, spent a few years living in Ireland, love the rugby.

    Bushmills, visit a site called StrongVPN.com. For $85 per year (service I have) or less, you can get access to servers in the UK, giving you live BBC programming through your computer (be sure to pay your license fee…lol). I checked this evening, and there are no Irish servers on this site (maybe a competitor has them….dunno), but at least you get to see Inverdale more than once a weekend. 🙂

    P.S. – Once I found this, I ditched my cable package and tv altogether. And, I am not a troll or getting paid for this. Just a rugby fan, trying to help out a fellow tragic in the US.

    WoC…love your site….only rugby blog that I bookmark. And, that was before you skewered Hook.

    • O'Riordan

       /  February 14, 2013

      I use overplay.net to access rugby outside the UK and Ireland. $4.95 a month for the smart DNS service and they have servers for UK and Ireland.

  48. Chris

     /  February 12, 2013

    What makes me most upset about the RTE coverage is that this is the commentary that gets sent around the world for every rugby loving viewer to endure.

    I came to work, and instead of being asked about the Irish performance, I was almost immediately asked, “What’s up with them commentators on the Ireland game? Are they blind or are they just in love with Ronan O’Gara?”

    I luckily had recorded the game because it was on at 2am on a Monday morning here in Oz which meant that as soon as ROG game up on screen without his tracksuit I punched the fast forward button and barely paused to check the score.

  49. Rich

     /  February 12, 2013

    Could nt care less about RTE commentary, as was noted above, some young tv executive who used to work on big brother probably thinks the sparks flying makes “great tv” and the double acts they have formed are up there with morcambe and wise.

    Re saturday and the above comments, just wondering how we are supposed to “blood” these young players. Lets take Keatley and Jackson as our examples. Summer tour to current World Champions NZ, on their patch. Hardly the environment to bring in a young player? I still think we should have had a young 10 on the tour but can see why we did nt (to a degree). Next game – home to SA and Arg – vital games in WC seeding – as important as 6N games – again, hardly the time to see if Jackson/Keatley up to it.

    Jackson and friends played very well vs Fiji National Team (i use Fiji national team as loosely as possible, a bit like their defense), but have been given a “thanks but no thanks” salute since then. Even HEenderson who looked like he had done enough has been left out.

    My point is that we either need to bite the bullet and get these guys games so we are not bringing the old hacks out of retirement for the next few years. Either a summer tour to North America with more than 3 games, or else get them in to play 6 nations and use it as a builder. At the moment we are in a cycle where it will never change, just like EOS last year in charge, we have learned nothing about any of our players or team other than we are even more inconsistant.

    When Botha and Matfield moved on SA brought in Etzebeth and Kruger, nothing said other than thanks and good luck – now they have 11 caps and 7 caps each, and will be allowed to grow so they get gametime, instead of going off on 55 mins for an old head to add to his intl caps.

    • Jimbob

       /  February 12, 2013

      Unfortunately there’s no way for a country as conservative as Ireland to blood new players. The 6N is our main target every year and every game is a must win; France/England Wales games are deemed too big and Italy/Scotland you don’t want to take the risk. Summer/November tours will be mainly the four nations of the SH so we obviously want to put our best foot forward there….
      Samoa are potentially the only other team that could provide a viable platform to blood youngsters but how many times will we play them in the next 3 years? A North America tour will not trouble Rabo/Heineken players.
      To put it simply Deccie (and any other future coaches) need to be ruthless;drop a player for a younger (or better) counterpart when form drops; some will take to it, some won’t; we’ll win games, we’ll lose games but at least there will be the answer to is X or Y or Z good enough?

  50. Seko

     /  February 12, 2013

    I realise the focus of this article is very much on RTE’s coverage and not necessarily an out and out criticism of O’Gara, and I may be less qualified to speak on the topic than most, having watched on BBC, but in fairness to ROG he was one of at least 10 players who played woefully below par. I understand that of all the players in the squad ROG needed to put his hand up more than any, due to the focus on his position within the squad, and he very much failed to do so, but I think it slightly unfair to isolate him as practically the sole reason for this embarrassing loss.
    Many here have mentioned their apparent horror when they saw ROG warming up, however I can be relatively certain, from the mounting resent that seems to have fallen his way on the comments of this blog, that those same posters felt the same “horror” at the sight of Keith Earls, who acquitted himself quite well as possibly our only attacking threat throughout the game. No mention has been made of his “overratings” this week though. Sometimes it is worth rowing in behind the management and squad in general, and trusting that they may actually know what is best seeing as they train together and can see exactly what is going on, and not continually tearing players down and attributing their selections to apparent “provincial bias”.
    ROG played terribly (and hasn’t been much better throughout the season) and so it looks like it may be time to bring the younger lads along, however I sincerely hope they do not suffer the same levels of criticism/scepticism should they not be amazing instantly, as more so than most young out-halves need confidence. Equally I would not put it past O’Gara to revitalise himself and steer us through the championship…severe optimism/nostalgia I am not sure but I prefer to stay positive about the players and put some trust in them and the management.

    • You were right in your first sentence but it all fell apart a bit thereafter. We even listed all the players who played badly to make it clear this was not just about ROG, but rather the protection he receives in the media.

      I don’t know who the Earls comment is aimed at, but if you read our pages you’ll observe we rate him extremely highly, and have stood by his claims as an outside centre in spite of some lapses in form recently.

      Asking people to ‘row in behind management’ is very difficult when, to most observers, results and performances have been maddeningly inconsistent for some time. As you say yourself, ROG ‘hasn’t been much better all season’, and was an accident waiting to happen. How can you row in behind the people that keep picking him anyway? That makes no sense to me – even less than claiming immediately thereafter that he will miraculously steer us through the championship. Realistically, he will only be needed for the Scotlnd game in any case. We would love to believe that ourselves, but unfortunately there are no magic potions to make 35 (going on 36) year old fly-halves 26 again. As we say in the piece, there is no shame in ROG being finished – there aren’t many skinny 35 year old still playing test rugby – but it is what it is.

      Positivity, trust in the management… that’s what the likes of Thornley and Conor George have been happy to do for some time; we claim no expertise on the sport, but we do feel an obligation to write what we believe.

      • Seko

         /  February 12, 2013

        In fairness to WoC and the article in general my comment was not really aimed at it or the author but more at the 80 or so comments completely lambasting ROG and by association his selection in the panel. I mean people are calling for Ian Madigan to be called up ahead of him? Madigan has shown signs of being a good player but if we are going to hold ROGs club form against him as a decisive reason to drop him, then surely the same logic must be applied to Madigan, who has only 1 start in the HC (the only barometer) at 10 to his name, and Jackson who has not impressed (eventhough Ulster have) at that level this year. My point is that these guys all come together as a squad and work together in direct comparison for a number of weeks and I think due respect should be shown to the management’s ability to pick the best players.
        The Earls comment again was only directed at the huge number of commenters who have voiced the opinion that he should be ‘nowhere near’ the Irish bench and is essentially a vehicle to highlight the sensationalist views of many commenters on here…especially Amiga500 who claims Luke Fitz is more of a centre than Earls eventhough he has significantly less experience at international, Lions, HC, Rabo, under-age and even schools level of playing in the centres?

    • Amiga500

       /  February 12, 2013

      1. ROG played a pivotal role in losing the game. He could not play a territorial game, nor could he run the backline with ball-in-hand. The weather was set up for a territorial game – one which he failed to provide.

      2. Keith Earls is a wing. A very good wing. He is however, NOT a centre. People are annoyed at his continued selection in the team when he cannot cover the midfield and there are better alternatives. The bench should have been Keatley and Fitzgerald.

      3. ROG will not revitalise himself. He is done. He is already a busted flush at Pro12 level (anyone who viewed the Ospreys dismantling of Munster back in September will attest to this), never mind full test matches.

  51. Jlo

     /  February 12, 2013

    Think Jacksons standard dropped when he started getting the benefit of Irish coaching but as Alan Hansen once said you never win anything with kids.

  52. El Greco

     /  February 12, 2013

    Some good insight lads. CG in the Indo today takes the biscuit though. If he is as close to Renal Failure as is believed then:
    “There are no credible alternatives to the 127-times capped Munster player and this is a huge opportunity for him” is cause for serious worry in the next game.

    Thankfully I was spared the triumvirate of Pope, Hook and McGurk based as I am in the West Indies. It has been quite a while since I wanted to throw something hard and brick-like at my telly but Hook’s contrary attitude, purely for the sake of being contrary, was always tiresome in the extreme. It must now have run its course.

  53. Xyz

     /  February 12, 2013

    I’ve lived in the UK for quite a few years now so my exposure to Hook is confined to the occassional read of his column – and only when I’m in a good mood and feel like a laugh.

    Just a question to WoC and all the commentators though: if he annoys you so much why don’t you just watch the coverage on the Beeb? Are BBC channels not widely and freely available anymore?

    i don’t think the BBC provides any sort of great insight (I might be wrong here but I thought criticism of O’Gara during the game was very limited from them also) but they don’t ruin my enjoyment.

    • The BBC is certainly better, and Egg often watches games there, but our issue is really that the “swing fan” in Ireland takes at face value what so-called experts in RTE promulgate. Hence you have a situation where a ridiculous biased position becomes the truth. Talk to the casual rugby fan in Ireland and they will tell you we need an openside flanker like Peter O’Mahony, because that is the bollocks they here from RTE, who they trust as experts.

      • Xyz

         /  February 12, 2013

        A fair point, I’m with you now.

        Oh, and we seem to have broken the ton on this one – is that a first for the comments section?

  54. Coming on late here, so much points to address! I think I’ll concentrate on three!

    The Media: I agree entirely with WOC’s article, I think rugby coverage has been a joke in this country for a long time now. Hook is beyond a joke, Brent Pope is average (and in fairness has to spend half his time arguing against Hook’s bullshit) and Tony Ward, Frankie Sheahan, Conor George, Hugh Farrelly, and more often than not Gerry Thornley have nothing to say worth reading, in my opinion. As a massive rugby fan I think the best coverage is unequivocally ‘Off the Ball’s weekly(sometimes bi weekly) slot on Newstalk. Shane Horgan is a fantastic pundit, and a very welcome addition to the RTE panel, but he’s seriously inhibited by a certain clown’s incessant interruptions and bellowing (I think Tom Mc Gurk is the only man who actually finds George humorous). Two lads who’ve consistently impressed me are Liam Toland, and especially Emmet Byrne. Two useless players during their careers but I always feel they’ve decent and well rounded views. I also think Neil Francis writes very good columns for the Sunday Indo, and while his style may grate on a lot of people, he makes some very good points (he was the only pundit I heard who predicted the scrum wouldn’t be an issue on Sunday-which it wasn’t). Also, I wouldn’t hold the BBC as the benchmark of rugby coverage quality. I always tune in for their excellent commentary but their pundits are given very little time to analyse anything. Keith Wood and Jon Davies were gushing at half time on the quality of the match, for me it was the worst match I’d seen since….France V Wales the day before! It seems last week was a false dawn and we’re back to the crappy championship full of average teams that we’ve grown sick of.

    ROG: Easily the worst player on the pitch on Sunday, can you imagine the media backlash if Sexton had performed even close to that pathetic level? It’s been apparent for quite some time now that ROG can’t tackle, run, take the ball into contact without being turned over, pass, or gain any ground with his feeble penalty kicks to touch. He’s still a decent penalty kicker but a return of 2/3 is unacceptable when penalty kicking is your sole attribute. He should have been fazed out long ago, and the blame must be placed primarily with Kidney, with Rob Penney not without fault either. This has been an accident waiting to happen for a long time. Sexton, Madigan, Keatley, Jackson and Dan Parks have all outperformed ROG in the Rabo and Europe this year. Of the three lads left I would pick Madigan. If Ireland want to continue to play the way they did against Wales in the first half then he is your best option. Jackson is a lovely footballer but his goalkicking has been desperate all year (then again, Madigan doesn;t take that many penalties for Leinster!). There’s very little between them at this stage but I think Madigan definitely has more potential and ability….Irrelevant really as ROG will be starting as long as Sextons injured!

    Heaslip: I don’t disagree with BOD being demoted, and I don’t think the captaincy is half the issue most people make it out to be, but Heaslip was a poor choice as successor. I rate him as a player, and he’s as selfless and hardworking as there is, but I don’t see him as a captain. It makes him undroppable and unsubable and we all saw how that allowed an average player like Warburton keep a far superior in form player like Tipuric on the fringes for nearly a year. Very poor performance on Sunday but I’ll reserve my judgement until the campaign is finished. I’d have opted for Rory Best as captain.

    ** Whoever made the comment about ROG’s zimmerframe sinking into the familiar area 20 metres behind the gainline…I salute you! **

  55. jojo

     /  February 12, 2013

    Quinlan is a poor analyst. all he can ever comment on is ”attitude, belief,spark,energy,motivation” and everything is ”key”.
    There’s a lot more to rugby than being up for the game.
    His analysis of the game was we lacked ”spark”.
    The game was not about spark, England didnt particularly have any spark.
    The team were motivated, so that wasnt it.
    It was a poor kicking game, and a back 3 who were outplayed.

  56. John

     /  February 12, 2013

    Oh for god sake. Another cowardly pop at Radge…..you are beyond parody at this stage…..By your criteria Bod should also be retired…he almost gifted Tuilagi a try…also Kearney was awful…why are you not (again and again and again) calling for them to retire (or be retired) lik you are Rog….? if you were that big a supporter what were you doing watching the game from your couch? If you were a true supporter shou,d you not have been at the game???!!!
    McCarthy was poor…Heaslip a joke….O’Mahony, O’Brien,Murray and Ross only players to play relatively well and yet you single out O’Gara fior your vitriol….Sexton was poor before he got injured and yet he escapes your bile?????

    • 1. Please direct us to our other “pop’s at Radge”
      2. The vitriol is directed at RTE
      3. Those at the game who heckled Owen Farrell – are they true supporters?
      4. Are only those at the game true supporters?
      5. We wrote an article for the Irish Post, which we will be replicating here later in the week in which we credit SOB and POM with good performances. We have defended Murray from his multiple detractors in this comments section
      6. We didn’t call for anyone to retire, but Kearney retiring in his mid-20s would be a bit silly

  57. First a word on Hook. At a recent event in Ravenhill Hookie was actually quite sane and interesting in his opinions rather than belligerent and he proved he can analyze the modern game. What was most interesting though was his throwaway comment to the effect “I’m paid to have opinions, not to be right”.

    On Rog, he was unbelievably poor in all areas of his game. Witness his pathetic attempt to chip the on rushing defender in midfield. What was he going to do had he caught it in space? Of course Jackson isn’t ready, but when faced with a choice between “not ready but might make it” and “used to be and won’t ever be again” I know where I’d go.

    When the day that it becomes clear to all and sundry he can no longer hack it is the very kind of day in which he used to excel, then it is time to say goodbye.

  58. Brendan Ryan

     /  February 13, 2013

    Nearly every single poster has mentioned the appalling showing ROG and some have included Murray as well as having a poor game. While I agree ROG had a very poor day at the office and that his form this season has been barely average at best, no-one has looked at or analysed the reasons he had such a poor game. After all Johnny Sexton was hardly bossing proceedings in the first 30 mins.

    England completely shut down ROG when he came on. They tried to do the same to Sexton but as Sexton has more physical presence than ROG, he was able to tough it out some. Look at the blitz defense England deployed off ruck ball. With ROG getting the ball off a slow ruck, he had Haskell and Farrell in his face and when he looked to pass, Brad Barritt was rushing up in his line of view on the outside. This forced ROG to kick hurriedly i.e. poorly or turn back in and get swallowed up in contact.

    Any of these tactics sound familiar? It’s exactly what Wales did to us in Wellington in RWC2011. These tactics were highlighted by Keith Wood on OTB Monday night along with the observation that England deployed a player to act as a second full back or sweeper to cut down on the space that ROG had to kick into. This, coupled with hasty kicking contributed to ROG’s awful kicking game. It doesn’t however excuse his shocking penalty kicks to touch, his right leg looks very under-powered this season.

    So, yes he had a poor game, but England through their clever tactics were the chief architects of this.

  59. Jlo

     /  February 13, 2013

    After watching loads of rugby over the weekend on various channels, BBC NI, TG4 were not bad, BBC average, RTE poor. I watched Liverpool v West brom on Sky on Monday with Gary Neville. It was light years ahead of the rest

  60. Scrumdog

     /  February 13, 2013

    2013 wishes… that Kidney, O’Gara and Hook ride off into the sunset or holiday on a beach somewhere with Paddy Wallace….where phones are prohibited!

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