Fat Lady Tuning Up

That’s all folks, as they say. The Declan Kidney era as Ireland coach is over following a clueless second half capitulation against a limited Scottish side in Murrayfield. As the game went on, the paucity of Ireland’s play became clearer and clearer, and the endgame was difficult to watch.  Afterwards it was a case of ‘how did that happen?’  Even Scotland’s head coach Scott Johnson seemed astonished that his team had won.  Ireland made all the line-breaks, had 70% of the ball in spite of a hopeless lineout and shaky scrum, and should have had a 17-point lead at half time.  Instead they handed Scotland the initiative and lost the game, almost entirely by default.  It seemed an unloseable game but Ireland contrived to do so.

It leaves Declan Kidney in a spot where his position has become untenable.  This series was his bid for a new contract and with this defeat, his chances go up in smoke.  Ireland have one win from three, and now face a partially resurgent France, against whom their record is dire, and a potential wooden-spoon-off in Rome.  There seems no chance the IRFU will deem the current performance level worthy of another two years, and the 2015 World Cup.  The momentum generated against Argentina and Wales has been duly squandered.  It’s the same old story, the umpteenth episode over four years of mediocrity.

We have been supportive of Jamie Heaslip’s captaincy to date, but Ireland lacked decisive leadership on and off the field. We’ll come to Heaslip later, but the management did not have a good day. Paddy Jackson was parachuted into the starting lineup and Ian Madigan was left out of the initial matchday training squad – Jackson had a good game in open play, his swift hands releasing Luke Marshall (twice) and Keith Earls in the first half, but 1 from 4 is not good enough from the tee at this level. When the defiant Ronan O’Gara came on, he was woeful – kicking possession away and setting up Scotland’s final penalty with a head-fryingly stupid cross-kick. Not even Conor George will manage to spin that one.  It pains us to see a great career end this way. As for Madigan, he may not have started many big games at 10, but he has form, experience and confidence, and should have seen action in June or November (as should Jackson) – we can see why Kidney didn’t play him given his limited exposure, but it was Kidney who has elected not to give him that exposure.

When players don’t have experience to fall back on, they should at least have form, so they feel confident playing their own game.  But Jackson was just back from injury, hadn’t been playing well, and has struggled with placed ball this season.  It was a lot to ask of him.  The oversight in not ensuring he took place kicks against Zebre last Friday looks borderline criminal now.  At test rugby, where teams prepare to the nth degree, how can Ireland have left such a critical element of the game as kicking points to chance?  What to do for the next game?  Pray for Sexton, presumably.

But, back to PJ for a second – in the first-half, Ireland eschewed shots at goal, almost as if they were aware Jackson wasn’t the greatest kicker. Then in the second half, they elected to go for it from harder places on the field, but after what seemed like lengthy debate – the lack of confidence in the kicker should not have been perceptible to someone watching, but it was. Confidence ebbed from the team the longer Scotland stayed in it. To wrap up this section, we should mention that the other debutant, Luke Marshall, had an excellent game.

By half-time yesterday, Ireland should have been out of sight. Prime butchery from Keith Earls and ponderous rumbling inside the 22 meant we went in just 3-0 up despite utterly dominating. Scottish defence was good, but at this level, that shouldn’t matter if you are camped in the 22 for most of a half.

Then in the second half, when Craig Gilroy got over, it looked like Ireland would kick on and win, but they didn’t. Jackson missed touch from a penalty and, a few phases later, Wee Greig was knocking over 3 points, and we began to get concerned. Second Half Syndrome was about to strike again – the moment the Scottish got a foothold in the game, Ireland lost their discipline; the lineout continued to be a shambles, and, when Tom Court went off, the scrum – already creaking a bit – collapsed.

Scotland lapped it up – having defended well, we invited them back into the game, they took their chances, and they ended the game bullying Ireland. Dave Kilcoyne showed why he wasn’t starting, and the Irish pack is just a bit powder puff when the noose tightens. In times gone by, Ireland’s forwards were immovable objects, but, even allowing for the absence of Paul O’Connell, Fez and DJ Church, we are rather lightweight.

The backrow were impressive on the front foot in the first half, but lost shape entirely in the second. We’re losing patience with seeing Peter O’Mahony prominent in every handbags episode, but not in every defensive last stand when the opposition get the ball.  He has much to offer and has had a good series up until this match, but the faux-hardman act is becoming exhausting.  Someone needs to have a word in his ear.  Iain Henderson had a good cameo off the bench, and should be putting POM’s place under pressure. Sean O’Brien was Ireland’s best player, but the penalty he gave away was one of the stupidest in living memory.

Heaslip himself had his best game for Ireland in a while, with good metres gained and some feral clear-out work, but his leadership wasn’t there – he seems ill-at-ease with the responsibility, hesitant over major decisions and he does not inspire the confidence of his troops. He has also become oddly penalty expensive, never a feature of his game in the past.  To be a leader, you need followers, and Heaslip doesn’t have any.  His shell-shocked post-match interview in which he described Ireland as being ‘in a good place, but a mixed place’ showed how uncomfortable he is in the role; it was as if the words were coming out of his mouth without him really knowing what they were, or what they signified.

What’s most worrying is that Ireland don’t seem to have the ability to stem the flow when momentum swings against them.  All games have an ebb and flow, as teams exchange dominance over the course of 80 minutes.  In all three matches in this series, Ireland have found themselves under the kosh in the second half, but have been powerless to turn it around – or even to hang in there and effectively limit the damage.  The longer each game goes on, the worse Ireland seem to get.  Once Scotland got back to 8-6, we tweeted that we had ‘that sinking feeling’ – we never felt confident that Ireland would soak up the pressure and regain control.  To this end, it has not helped that Ireland’s reserves have been so useless.  None of ROG, Reddan, Toner or Kilcoyne provided much in the way of impact – in fact, the contrary was the case as momentum got away from us with scary speed.

This group looks rudderless on and off the pitch, and it’s simply time for a change.  Kidney has to accept responsibility for too many failed decisions this campaign; his decision to install Heaslip as captain looked a good one, but it has backfired.  It was a momentum-based decision, to carry some of the good vibes from November forward; a positive move, but now that the momentum has been squandered, where does it leave the team?  His blind spot towards Ian Madigan and oversight with regard to place kicking amounts to a blunder.  The regime is all but over.

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106 Comments

  1. The media and those in the know expected 3 or 4 wins at outset would see DK being renewed. Personally I made that 4 minimum. Even 3 now seems unlikely. Kidney is gone and rightly so.

    He leaves good players shorn of confidence and belief. Good players trying too hard to make the impossible, possible and once great players being humiliated. It is thankfully all over with just dead rubbers to fulfill.

    Personally I would like to see most of Ireland’s frontliners go to North America with a new coaching ticket rather than on the Lions tour. BoD excepted. What I fear will happen is a “caretaker” appointment (Brad again?) for the summer as the IRFU muddle on.

    • Very similar situation to how he took over 4 years ago sadly. Maybe the new coach will have a similar bounce effect that Kidney had after taking over…even if it wore off pretty quick.

      The 3 big differences are (a) he actually won something, (b) he hasn’t lost the media (partly as a result) and (c) he has been less successful in terms of pure results.

  2. I fully expect Ireland to go to North America with Ruddock and Foley as “caretakers”

    I’m at a loss for words as to describe my feelings about Ireland at the minute. They can’t hold onto a lead, they drop off horrendously in the second half, and the selection policy has been “oh dear X got injured, right shove in some young buck”

    Schmidt for Ireland…

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  February 25, 2013

      Good call on the caretakers.
      Schmidt should be on the list. I’d expect Conor O’Shea and Mark McCall to be the others there. McCall’s inclusion does not mean I feel He should get it but he is Irish and his team perform well enough.

      • I’d like to see someone from outside Ireland at least be considered. If the IRFU are OK with having 3 Kiwis and a Samoan coaching the provinces, why not the top job? A SH coach would also have less problems with “provincial favouritism” which (as an admittedly biased Ulsterman) has been prevalent throughout Kidney’s tenure. I can imagine it being difficult for O’Shea and McCall to leave their respective clubs, especially since the latter has recently renewed his contract, and O’Shea’s in the middle of his current extension.

        Brian McLaughlin may be a good candidate for the job, but given how his exit from the Ulster ticket was handled I’m not sure how well he’d be received in the media

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  February 25, 2013

        McLaughlin would have no chance. The other provinces would accept it.
        Any coaches out there we’d have with no Irish connections? Wayne Smith, Ewen McKenzie, Jake White.
        As for coaches mid contract etc… They’d be pretty dump not to have out clauses in their contracts for national coach positions.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 25, 2013

        The NZRU have Smith on retainer, they made keeping their brains trust after the WC a big thing. Even Henry was only loaned as a “consultant” to the Argies. So Smith is out.
        White is just getting the Brumbies going. I reckon he’ll get the AUS job after Dingo gets the chop this summer.
        McKenzie is a non runner imo, he had shocking stint at Stade at he’d probably be waiting for the AUS job along with Jake White.
        Mallet would be available. I think Galthie is leaving Montpellier for Racing, could be wrong, hed be a great signing if we could get him.
        I think a coach who can put together an exiting team, no more mumbling schoolteachers talking rubbish. We need someone with a clear vision and with no allegience to the blazers in the IRFU or any of the provinces. I dont think Schmidt should get the job, It should be someone utterly fresh.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  February 25, 2013

        I don’t want Joe to get it because it has a massive impact on Leinster.
        He’d be well able for it. The politics is only an issue when they play shite and lose. Schmidt is also blessed with an ability to talk to the media without pissing everyone off.

        Love the Galthie shout but with the way France are going he might have his eye on that gig.
        McKenzie and Cheika both had poorish stints at Stade. I’m blaming Stade for that one. McKenzie has gone on to turn the Reds around and win an S15. I wouldn’t have him but he is a thinker.
        Not sure on Mallet. Would he pick a proper 7?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 25, 2013

        I’m just throwing Mallets name out there, he did well with good players up until his mixed bag with Italy. His time at Stade,Stormers and the Boks speak for themselves. He could however be a busted flush. It happens. But his past success means he has to be in consideration.
        I dont know why, but I’m kind of reticent for Schmidt to take over. I know he can do it, but Leinster could suffer and the situation he is walking into is a mess.He could end up two year out from 2019 playing for another contract which would not work out for anyone if it all goes belly up…… I think a short term coach with an incentivised contract for a big WC is the answer, with Schmidt to lead us into the 2019 WC. Unless Schmidt is planning on going home anyway in which case a deal up until the WC would be ideal and he should get the job.
        This is literally the biggest decision the IRFU will ever have to make. Look how badly wrong France have got it with PSA, a political appointment of Blanco’s. Lievremonts tenure was glorious in comparison. We cant hire another clone of EOS/Kidney. We need someone vibrant, with an attacking mindset, someone who will communicate with the media/fans and set out a clear goal/style of play.

    • Jayo

       /  February 26, 2013

      Surely Eric Elwood is the outstanding candidate, Connacht are playing brilliant rugby, and not many past allegiances when picking Irish teams. I think the Irish coach should be Irish.

  3. montigol

     /  February 25, 2013

    Shocked that mention of a renewal was ever on the cards, barring an extremely unlikely Championship win. Team has been in reverse pretty much since 2009. Aimless performance, aimless team sadly. Cannot defend the Heaslip captaincy move anymore. Gone awry, but everything stems from the culture of muddling along that Kidney inspires.

  4. Roy

     /  February 25, 2013

    What about McFadden replacing Earls on the wing and taking the kicks? Assuming that Sexton isn’t fit for France. If you did that then Jackson could start and Madigan could be on the bench.

    • Jimbob

       /  February 25, 2013

      Ferg can actually pass the ball too which might help his case. Earls cost Ireland a certain try by putting his head down and being greedy. I think he’s had enough chances at this stage; I’d have any one of Gilroy, Zebo, Fitz, Ferg, Trimble and maybe O’Halloran ahead of him in the pecking order for wing.

      • Stevo

         /  February 25, 2013

        I don’t think Earls was being greedy, he just lacked the vision to spot O’Driscoll’s support run. His lack of vision is something that he has been criticised for before and is one of the main problems with him being considered at outside centre.

      • Jimbob

         /  February 25, 2013

        I’m not sure if it’s his lack of vision or his unwillingness to look; either way it’s pretty poor from a player of his experience regardless of position.

  5. Bushmills

     /  February 25, 2013

    You forgot to mention Kidneys persistence with the woefully labored Conor Murray. The amount if times I was screaming “pass it!” Or “where’s Murray!?” I can’t remember. He is another of Kidneys pets who meaningfully slows down play. It was noticeably quicker ball when Reddan appeared.

    • Murray has had some good games this year when playing to his strengths (fringe attack and defence). Yesterday’s game was totally crying out for a quick and accurate distributor, which he is not. However, he is and remains a good player. He should not be scapegoated in any way though. He was far from the worst performer and the failure to select a horses-for-courses scrumhalf lies with the management.

    • Murray had a poor game, but lots of players played badly. The malaise runs deeper than so-and-so played badly. Murray was having a good series up to now, but he played badly. I’d expect any coach coming in to continue to pick him.

    • Jimbob

       /  February 25, 2013

      Unfortunately none of Ireland’s scrumhalves are exceptional. Reddan hasn’t had a great season so far and Marshall is sitting behind Pienaar and also doesn’t seem to be steady enough to take a game from the start. Boss isn’t really good enough for test rugby and I can’t comment on Marmion as I haven’t seen enough of him yet (highly unlikely he’ll get a run with inexperienced 10 and 12 outside him). I’d say Murray is the best of a bad bunch for now.

  6. Shelflife68

     /  February 25, 2013

    If the IRFU have not at this stage got someone lined up then they are seriously out of touch with reality. The time to start thinkingof Kidneys departure was after our humiliation at the hands of NZ.
    The writing was on the wall then, and I would hope that they saw it too and started their search for a new coach last year.

  7. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  February 25, 2013

    Heaslip Captaincy: He was never going to be as good as BOD but the idea of transition was a positive step towards easing the burden of replacing the irreplaceable. His record was good up to the England match and the fact we were so poorly prepared in adopting a plan B, coupled with a poor bench should be remembered before we decide to hang him.
    Who else would you have picked? Best is a quality player and leader but up until the point Mighty Mauss got injured we were looking at Best playing 50/80 minutes each match.

    PJ: Was he or wasn’t he the right man? Madigan etc… When you have a guy playing at 10 for his first cap the rest of the team have to help him. The first pass he got yesterday was catchable and J10 would have caught it but a scrumy who has played as many tests as Murray now has, should know better. PJ needed an armchair ride and his team-mates failed to provide in, none more so the Murray. PJ recovered well from that Knock-on but I place the full blame for that error on the Half-back.

    Kidney: Why was Gilroy subbed? I don’t recall any errors from him. He was playing well and his finish was top drawer. I’m not sure we needed Luke on the pitch (though I’m glad to see him back) but if I was going to shepherd’s hook one of the starting wingers it would have been Earls (Never a center).
    There’s nothing more to be said about his shocking handling over the back-up 10 debacle. ROG is done and Kidney is gone.

  8. coreilly

     /  February 25, 2013

    It will be the decisions to leave our ferg from the 15 to kick yesterday and Madigan out since June and most criminally until last week that will cost the man his job

  9. solidalarry

     /  February 25, 2013

    Agree largely, and pleased to see you’ve been able to recognise that Heaslip did well as a player but poorly as a captain. If our skipper isn’t O’Driscoll it should be Sexton or Best (in that order, IMO).

    A frustrating game to watch. Can’t agree that Luke Marshall had a stormer, he butchered an overlap and followed up a mistake with another mistake (which you can’t do, that’s how you lose tries) when he toe-poked the ball after Rog kicked his international career away (into midfield no-man’s-land, loose and scrambling, such a bad and unfitting way for him to go).

    Our line out and scrum were poor, but we still managed 75% possession in an away match that never really went beyond a one-score game. We lost one ruck in thirty six, the Scots lost one in seven. You’re right about the penalty, but O’Brien was absolutely amazing. Heaslip – as I said above – played well too while Donnacha Ryan was also excellent. One thing I will say about Luke Marshall is that it doesn’t look like we’ll lose much in terms of breakdown work – he seems to have that in the locker, which is great to see in a 12 who also offers some exciting stuff.

    We lost the match at 9, 10 and 12 (plus Earls butchering the inside pass to BOD, he needs to start putting those away as a matter of course): both Jackson and Marshall did some things very well but, overall, were mediocre, both with a number of poor errors and, ultimately, along with Murray they are the playmaking unit and we didn’t get the job done despite ample opportnuity.

    Perhaps harshly, Murray now has nearly 20 caps and can’t be appraised in the same way as the other two, even though he’s not much older than the other two: his ponderousness at getting the ball away from rucks when we got near the Scotland side – for breakdown-on-breakdown on numerous occasions – was the stuff of club 4th XV rugby, frankly. He’s young and he’s improving but that needs to stop, we must must must be quicker. You’re right to say Reddan didn’t offer much but he at least fixed that (which has long been his main strength).

    I would have played Madigan yesterday, with Keatley on the bench, but now he’s gone with Jackson we should stick, and put Ian M on the bench in place of Rog for the France game.

    Pre-empting anyone stubborn enough to suggest “oh, but it’s France, we can’t chuck in young, inexperienced… pick O’Gara” – sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but you’re wearing no clothes.

    Bottom line: we could not look any more like a side that needs a change of coach.

    • If Sexton is back for France, he should start and Jackson should be on the bench. The NA tour will be perfect to give both Madigan and Jackson some experience.

  10. Anonymous

     /  February 25, 2013

    Great piece and well summed up. Watched the game in a bar in France and, despite their record of 0 from 3 and laughable problems of their own, even the French were giggling away at the fact that we didn’t have a recognised competent place-kicker on the pitch, as well as the fact that the likes of O’Gara and Toner were expected to have an impact off the bench. Just a depressing game to watch. Now that Kidney is goners, who do you expect to take over at the end of the season?

  11. Simon Farrell (@SFarrell_5)

     /  February 25, 2013

    The ultimate snatching of Defeat from the jaws of Victory. In a twisted way the current malaise in the national team reminds me of the end of O’Sullivan’s reign. Whereas that ended with a team trying to move beyond a rigidly structured style of play to a New Zealand-esque ‘heads up’ playstyle (and failed the transition), this team seem forced into playing-on-the-fly by virtue of having no gameplan or structure at all. Sure the back line might line up in a pattern behind a scrum or line out but what happens when they get the ball is aimless side to side stuff. Banging away with lone forward runners was as ineffective yesterday as it was vs England or Wales yet we seem not to have learned from those games.

    So where to from here? Heaslip should probably remain captain for the next two games, poor (as a captain) though he has been, I’m not sure what can be achieved by changing him. Marshall showed enough to be retained, Fitzgerald didn’t quite show enough to get a starting berth. As was mentioned O’Mahony could do with directing some more of his energy to the actual rugby and waste less on handbags, Henderson to get more time off the bench. I’m not even going to pretend I know whats best to do at flyhalf. Retain Jackson I suppose and have him spend the next two weeks kicking the ball from every angle in Landsdowne Rd. Madigan on the bench.

    A final point; do the players themselves need a bit of an honesty session, own their poor performances a bit more? Enfield 2.0?

  12. The big relief is that the young lads did well by-and-large (apart from Jackson’s place kicking). There was a concern they would be scarred by this away-match, deep-end exposure. On the contrary, they showed they have what it takes.

    The match was lost (Scotland didn’t win) totally due to a crisis of strategy, game management and leadership – all of which is more or less down to this management regime. Confidence seems to at as low an ebb as when Eddie was on his way out. Now the IRFU has no choice – hopefully, they have actually prepared for this and already started the selection process; my big fear is that they haven’t.

    Heaslip won’t be captain next year but the only real stand-out alternative has just be shafted by the IRFU and is off to France. Rory Best is the most logical choice, even if his throwing has to be more reliable.

    Crazy. At the start of this tournament, I was expecting a big Irish contingent on the Lions XV. 2 or 3 players played themselves right off the 23 yesterday (Kearney, Best and Heaslip). With Farrell ascendant and Sexton missing a key part of the season, you could now foresee a Lions test XV with only 2 or maybe 3 Irish starters.

  13. Much of this all stems from there being no decipherable game plan from the top and no idea how to change things when our Plan A has been rumbled. You are correct about Heaslip, his role as captain needs to be questioned. As I watched the line up during the anthems what I saw in JH’s eyes was not pride or a pumped up look, it was fear. Why is that? Contrast this to the outings he has had as Leinster captain.

    Leadership comes from the top down and in Ireland’s case its clearly absent. It has been asked on many occasions why can’t we replicate provincial success to the national team. Perhaps the answer to that conundrum lies in the fact that the provinces are skippered by coaches with a clear vision of how they want their respective teams to play and the role their players have in putting that vision into practice. With the national team we have a coach who appears to have no overall philosophy which leads to confusion.

    Pound for pound and in quality we have the players to be consistently challenging for if not winning successive six nations championships. What we need to realise that is a coach with a clear and unambiguous vision balanced with the insight to alter the game plan on the day if required.

    For example take the Leinster /Clermont match at the AVIVA in December, Leinster were totally outplayed but still had the ability to come back and get something from the game and turn the ebb, Munster in the recent past have displayed the same abilities, which proves IMHO that the players have the capacity, but there needs to be a clear direction and message coming from the top.

  14. rachel685

     /  February 25, 2013

    If I had to come up with a single word to encapsulate yesterday’s performance and indeed Ireland since the GS, it would be: incoherence. Incoherence in every respect, from selection, to gameplan (or lack thereof), to bad decision-making, to the attempt to marry a fast attacking game with slow, ponderous ball. This goes way beyond the level of individual players having bad days and must be laid at the foot of the coaching team.

    I think a lot of this comes back to selection, actually. As always, Kidney’s plan has been to select his favourite players, whoever they may be, and try to cram them in to a team, rather than choosing a coherent whole that might leave out a few stars in favour of ensuring that all bases are covered with respect to the type of game that the management want to play on a given day (for past examples, look no further than the inexplicable Rog-at-10, Sexton-at-12 gambit). It’s galling that Paddy Jackson is getting so much of the flak for yesterday’s loss in the meeja. OK, I’d have had Madigan starting instead, but if Kidney was determined to go with Jackson, it was his responsibility to have a back-up kicker on the pitch because the fact that Jackson isn’t a great goal-kicker has actually been common knowledge for a long time. Sure, Ferg on balance would probably struggle to make a 3rd-string XV as a wing, if everyone else was fit. But his kicking is immaculate, and he would have been able to relieve the pressure on Jackson who could, in turn, have relaxed into his game much more easily. That’s what it means to choose a team rather than just a group of players (and as much as it pains me to say this, we ought to be looking at Lancaster’s England for a prime example of how to do this properly). I think it also helps keep the confidence of even non-selected players up, because the message becomes, ‘you’ve missed out this time because we’re trying to play X type of game due to the particular opposition/location/weather, but you’re really good at Y so your time will come.’ Rather than the current thing, which seems to be getting to a Lievremont-esque* stage of incomprehensibility whereby players might be dropped, or retained, or introduced, or made captain, or stripped of captaincy, with no preparation or explanation.

    * or maybe PSA-esque, given how badly he undermined France’s cause on Saturday by dragging his best players off for no reason.

    • solidalarry

       /  February 25, 2013

      All right bulldog… With one JS away and gone, could you stomach losing the other one from your beloved home province?

      Surely even Leinster fans wouldn’t mind giving up Joe if he went for the Ireland job? I don’t know how feasible this is, given he’s made a number of remarks about going back to Un Zud, but surely he’s the big favourite for the role? Or should at least be the number one choice?

      • rachel685

         /  February 25, 2013

        Hiya Larry. If Joe’s going to leave us one way or another – which he must, eventually – I’d surely hope it would be for Ireland rather than off back to NZ so that the All Blacks can be the beneficiaries of his talent. I’d be thrilled if he got the Ireland job. But doesn’t the rumour mill suggest he’s going home after his Leinster contract expires?

      • I obviously don’t want Schmidt to leave Leinster and I don’t see him taking the Ireland job if offered (and wouldn’t see that as consolation). Then again, I didn’t see the other JS moving to France.

      • Jayo

         /  February 26, 2013

        I think we need a neutral coach to come in and work with the players, not a lot of past history with one half of the team.

  15. Edser

     /  February 25, 2013

    I’ve said it before, but the most important decision in Irish rugby at the moment is that someone is put in charge prior to the North American tour and has a chance to bring a development squad and have a look at whats coming through first hand for a few weeks while some of the Senior players ( a continually decreasing number) are away with the Lions.
    I have almost no confidence that this will be the case however. They’ll head off with Elwood or Ruddock or Foley or someone, and the results and performances will be an irrelevance. A new coach will be appointed maybe sometime in September as we’re feed dribble about processes, and making sure we get the best person available. They should have been sounding out 1 or 2 prospectives over the last few months. November will see the usual arse-kicking at the hands of NZ, probably in the first game, and that will ensure that results are required in the next 2 games, which will ensure that the first team is put out for all 3 games. And we’ll be back here next year, hearing how the 6 nations is our bread and butter competition and out comes the first xv again. And so on.
    Who to appoint? Most would be happy with O’Shea or Schmdit. I’d go for O’Shea, as I don’t feel Schmidt will be able to reproduce what he does for Leinster given the limited time the coach gets with the Irish team. O’Shea strikes me more as a manager than a coach, I could be wrong, which I think may work better at international level, as he surrounds himself with a few specialists, a la Clive.
    Next few weeks? Have to stick with Jackson now, can look at putting McFadden on the wing for next couple of games to kick and tell Jackson to go back to Ulster and learn how to kick before he starts a game again after the 6 nations. He needs to demand it at provincial level the way Madigan did. He could see that if he wasn’t kicking, progress was going to be difficult. Madigan on the bench.

  16. “rudderless on and off the pitch” just about sums it up. Kidney’s great failure has been his inability to marry a team of talented individuals to a coherent, flexible game plan. Nowhere was that more obvious than on Sunday. Too many times Ireland stalled in front of the goal line, unsure of what to do next. When plan A didn’t provide points, there was no plan B. The substitutions just made things worse: Court had started poorly but settled in, then was yanked off. Gilroy was pulled when the worst you could say of him was that he’d been starved of the ball.
    As for Jackson, as said above, he had a good performance in the open, with quick hands and solid defence, but he’d clearly been told not to kick. Which can’t help his confidence – he’s fine in practice but criminally short of experience kicking in pressure moments. As elsewhere, there was no plan B. The starting team had no second kicker, and bringing ROG on was close to an admission of defeat. I don’t know if it’s physical or mental decline, but he’s just marking time now and it’s sad to see.
    Whoever the new regime turns out to be, task one has to be ensuring that the team know what they’re doing at all times: defending a lead, looking for scores or just targeting the opponents’ weak spots. That’ll require leadership both on and off the field, something Ireland has too little of (and ain’t that a sadly familiar refrain).

  17. Leinsterlion

     /  February 25, 2013

    History repeats itself an Irish coach hanging on after a disastrous WC gets the chop after dire performances from an aging badly coached/picked team. The IRFU have to contract the next coach up until the WC and no more. A foreign coach would be ideal. No accusations of provincial bias etc. His remit should be attacking rugby with a good WC in mind. He will also have to avoid the same pitfalls both Eddie and Kidney made, which ultimately caused their demise.
    An openside flanker is a must for the new regime. A second rate 6 in POM and another 6 playing openside leaves too much work for Heaslip and our centers to do in covering for the absence of a proper 7. Our attack was toothless and frequently got bogged down without one. The sight of Drico clambering out of a ruck as the ball whizzes out to the backline without him is so disheartening. The failed Kidney/Sullivan regimes both dispensed of the opensides role preferring big carriers in Wallace and SOB. As is frequently the case, teams with a proper openside destroyed ruck ball all day and killed our attack.
    It should be written into the contract of whoever replaces Kidney that we have an openside on the pitch at all times be it Henry, O’Donnell or Dom Ryan.
    Another failing of the Kidney regime is picking 9’s who cant do the basics of scrum half play from O’Leary to Murray, Kidney regime is characterised crap 9’s. I mockingly said Murray is a poor mans Mike Phillips. I retract that, hes a guy who once watched a 5 min DVD of Mike Phillips having a smoke and a chat at the back of a ruck and said “I can do that”. A 9 who can pass is desperately needed.
    Jackson gets a pass, he shouldnt have been there or at least had someone taking the kicks, I blame Kidney, he should get another go with Madigan on the bench as cover.
    Earls….what can you say..Eamon Dunphy once talked about bird brained wingers in football who just dribble and run into dead ends never crossing or passing. I think the same applies in rugby. Pure speed merchant, but bird brained, a poor mans Fionn Carr.

    I actually felt sorry for O’Gara, I knew it would end horribly as soon as he was warming up and was proven right unfortunately. His cross field kick will be held up as a stick to beat him with, but he came on obviously with the onus/expectation to seize the game/produce some miracle that was desperately needed. It was a good inventive idea poorly executed and in the context of a tight game baffling. He’s been finished at international level going on two years and shouldnt have been near the pitch. Sad end for a good servant of Irish rugby.

    John Mitchell is out of a job, If the IRFU cant get a coach in time for the summer tour he should be brought in with the remit to play youngsters in an expansive gameplan with resulst unimportant and development and performance being key. He produced one of the best side in world rugby in 03 he could impart a lot of knowledge to our young players. Developing a squad with 2015 in mind is key. Anyone who will definitely not be there should be discarded immediately.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  February 25, 2013

      John Mitchell is out of a job! Last I heard, so is Martin Johnson. Mitchel has had the Force, Lions and dipped into Sale. None of these teams are platforms from which to relaunch an international coaching career. (Mostly due to Mitchells’ own influence)

      All coaches are fair game as far as I’m concerned. I’d prefer an Irish connection, that doesn’t mean they have to be Irish.

      Wayne Smith, Conor O’Shea, Joe Schmidt. These are the kind of coaches that provide true rugby intelligence and a chance at beating bigger teams (of which there are many) on a consistent basis.

      • solidalarry

         /  February 25, 2013

        John Mitchell’s reputation precedes him… no thanks.

        Agree with you Ch, those are the kind of guys we need to be after. I don’t think there’s enough cash on the planet to get Wayne Smith to touch the job, but the other two are possibilities… the IRFU should throw a wedge at Schmidt to take us up to the next World Cup. He’s talked about going back to NZ, but would he really say no to such an opportunity?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 25, 2013

        Yeah but those 03 AB’s man…….Im nursing a semi just thinking of it. Mitchell for the summer tour would be awesome. Madigan flinging passes left and right……..He’d be a better stopgap then Foley or Elwood.
        Actually Carlos Spencer is the backs coach at the Sharks….We should give him the reigns for the summer tour. His one remit: Total rugby.
        Smith wont leave NZ. O’Shea……I’m lukewarm on him, hes the boring CEO type a more polished and urbane version of EOS. Schmidt has ties to Leinster. Someone fresh is needed. A clean break from provincialism

  18. coreilly

     /  February 25, 2013

    Whats matty Williams up to at the moment?

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  February 25, 2013

      I called for him the last time the job was available but as he said himself. He won’t ever coach in Ireland again. Not because he doesn’t want to but the politics wouldn’t have him.

  19. Go Ruck Yourself

     /  February 25, 2013

    Reactionary shite. As per usual.

    1.In spite of getting raped at pretty much every set piece available we managed 70% possession. That is an incredible stat for an away match against Tier 1 opposition (even if it is Scotland). I don’t recall even seeing the All Blacks enjoying that kind of utter dominance against Scotland.

    2. We were three passes away from being out of sight at half time. If those passes had been made/stuck we’d be talking about one the best halves of rugby from an Irish team in living memory. Ifs, buts and maybes; I know. If my granny had a cock she’d be my granddad. Fair enough.

    3. Madigan – really? Unless you have been recently lobotomised you can’t honestly think we would have won that game with Madigan at 10. He is completely untested at 10 at any sort of reasonable level of rugby (H Cup/A Internationals) and until he acquits himself at these levels he can’t be trusted to run an international. That said, ROG needs to go so he has got a decent chance of seeing bench time against France. We cannot discard Jackson, it would be a serious blow to his confidence and subsequently his development to drop him and we don’t develop enough 10s of his potential to ruin them on account of some poor kicking. He was good apart from his kicking and even J-10 has had some shockers with the placed ball (RWC ’11).

    4. I don’t see how Kidney is to blame. He isn’t up there with a PlayStation controller. If a player doesn’t pass the ball it’s not Kidney’s fault. If the ball gets knocked on it isn’t Kidney’s fault. During the second half, they lost momentum as they had fluffed so many chances it started to affect morale, coupled with Scotland realising they could win the game. Kidney wasn’t up in the stand with a voodoo doll with a little Ireland kit on it. If anyone deserves a bit of flak, it’s Gert Smal as the set piece is his domain and we were shocking there. The players lost the match, not Kidney.

    Look at the bigger picture, an injury-ravaged team (7 nailed-on starters missing) with a debutant 10 absolutely dominated a settled and reasonably confident Scotland team but failed to take their (numerous) chances. On top of this, their debutant 10 had a shocker with the boot, missing ¾ (difficult) kicks – understandable. Some perspective please.

    • solidalarry

       /  February 25, 2013

      Tell me please what, for you, would constitute a scenario whereby Kidney should be replaced. You could say, “the players lost the match, not Kidney” after every single game. That’s a nonsense cliché which looks hilarious in the middle of a post that began with your first paragraph. The coach is hugely important for any rugby team. We’ve been poor for ages, and on the slide. Declan must take the brunt of the blame for this. You say the players lost the match, I say the team did. And it’s Kidney’s team.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 25, 2013

      Lancaster turned Johnsons rabble into the GS champions elect….Brunels Italy are a 10 away from regularly challenging everyone. Howley has Wales in reverse. Scott Johnson doesnt seem to have done much, but Scotland are visibly better then they were under Robinson.

      The coach has everything to do with how a team plays. Kidney is blatantly at fault, his position is untenable.

      • Manga's League

         /  February 26, 2013

        Lancaster has entirely overhauled johnsons team as England actually have the player base to do that. Italy’s 10 has been their player of the tournament. Wales were in reverse long before Howley took over. Scott Johnson has done absolutely nothing except fluke a win against us.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 26, 2013

        Italys 10 has been the best player of the tournament? What are you watching? You mean Orqueras 40/50 mins against france? Because outside of that its been Burton and Orquera holding the team back. The style Brunel brought to the team is evident in comparison with Mallets narrow forward based gameplan. Orquera played out of jis skin for a half and we saw how good Italy could be. Both their 10’s then reverted to type and Italy are rubbish again. To say Italys 10 is their best player is an utter joke of a statement.
        Wales are in reverse as Howley has abdicated making any decisions, hes kept the same squad and style for as long as Gattys been gone. Gatty would be doing a better job with those players then Howley, and would have chopped and changed in the face of some awful performances.
        I actually forgot to mention the granddaddy of terrible coaching Phillipe Saint Andre. He has undone all the “good work” of Lievermont and sent France back to the worst days of the conservative Laporte reign. He is the poster boy for how much of an influence bad coaching and selection can destroy a team. Fofana on the wing, his terrible bench selection and subs in the England game. Fracne have enough depth to field three competitive teams if they were well coached. Frances abject coaching is the only thing holding them back.
        Ireland are in the same situation as England, Kidneys reign of terror is over in all but name. The Lancaster “bounce” is not due to them having loads of depth to facilitate a squad overhaul( they do, but Lancaster isnt using it). Lancaster picks players to suit his style and gameplan and assembled a team to fit what he wanted. Robshaw is not englands best 7, Wood is not Englands best 8. goode is not the best 15, Marler is not their best prop, but they are picked because they fit his plan. Ireland and France lack one thing that England have, a gameplan. Frances best 15 well coached would destroy all comers, Ireland best 15 would beat England and run other top teams close. However this will never happen with the substandard coaching we have been subjected to under Kidney.
        Kidney is utterly at fault for Ireland predicament. We have had one year of “effective” but dull rugby that won us the GS and then maybe 3/4 good games surrounded by dross, and thats the sum total of Kidneys reign. I could go over in minutiae the failing of the Kidney reign if you want. The point is its Kidneys fault we are rubbish and have no depth behind any of our frontliners. He was always a boring coach and he should never have gotten the international job. He played a rubbish form of rugby at Munster, flopped at Leinster and flopped at Ireland after one season of sucess. No Kidney coached team has ever played sustained attacking rugby, hes an anachronism, a has been. He’s been found out at international level. He’ll never coach a top team again.

    • rachel685

       /  February 25, 2013

      1. Kidney selects the players. He regularly chooses players who don’t work that well together because their styles don’t mesh (see: his halfback pairings); he is the one responsible for putting all goal-kicking responsibilities on a kid we knew in advance isn’t a great goal kicker, without having any backup; he’s the one who put Heaslip in a position for which he is clearly not ready.

      2. Kidney is responsible for the gameplan, which is something we simply don’t have right now. In theory it looks like Ireland now try to play a fairly fast-paced game, which makes sense since we don’t have the dominant pack that we used to, but then why stick with a scrum half whose strengths – and he certainly has his strengths – lie elsewhere (I’ll admit that our scrumhalf talent pool isn’t super deep; still, could Murray not be coached to play a faster game)? Why spend years trying to get Sexton to play like Rog-junior, while at the same time making all this noise about an attacking style that is much more suited to a different style of outhalf? When circumstances dictate a need to tighten the game and play the percentages, the team don’t seem to know how to do it, and the bench is not well used to provide that sort of change.

      3. Kidney is completely at fault for failing to develop players in a way that could mitigate the damage done by injury. We should never have been in a position where Jackson, Madigan or even Keatley had to get their first cap starting in a 6 Nations game. They should have had time in the summer and the autumn. This is a problem completely of the management’s making.

      The bottom line is that Kidney’s style of game means that when individual players all have good days, Ireland look great – but Ireland look terrible if every player isn’t playing out of his skin, because there is no coherent style and no sense of purpose. Players are always going to have bad days from time to time. But a streak like the one we’ve been on since 2009, with 1-2 good performances per year surrounded by a lot of mediocrity and occasional disasters – at a time when many of the same guys have been all-conquering at provincial level – that has to point to a problem with the management.

    • Stevo

       /  February 25, 2013

      This isn’t just wrong on rugby terms, there’s a complete lack of understanding of how team sports work.

    • toro toro

       /  February 25, 2013

      “Raped”, srsly?

      And figure out what “reactionary” means before you use it again.

      Your points have been shredded already, which I see you’ve responded to with inimitable charm.

      • Go Ruck Yourself

         /  February 25, 2013

        You either don’t know what reactionary means or you didn’t get any of my points, either way that’s pretty embarrassing for you pal.

        I’d really really appreciate some well put, well considered points to counter my argument. I’ve seen absolutely nothing thus far.

      • toro toro

         /  February 25, 2013

        You actually think it means “reacting to things”, don’t you?

        OH CUTE!

      • Go Ruck Yourself

         /  February 25, 2013

        re·ac·tion·ar·y (r-ksh-nr)
        adj.
        Characterised by reaction, especially opposition to progress or liberalism; extremely conservative.
        n. pl. re·ac·tion·ar·ies
        An opponent of progress or liberalism; an extreme conservative

        Just to clarify, the part which relates to my usage is the “Characterised by reaction” part. The “shite” in this case relates to the article and subsequent opinions, which I felt were characterised by reaction as opposed to offering a fair assessment of the game.

        Oh God, I’d hate to look like an absolute ham sandwich on a public forum! That would be so embarrassing! Maybe, if you ask nicely, WoC can incorporate a “Word of the Day” feature so you can improve your vocabulary! Wouldn’t that be swell!

      • toro toro

         /  February 25, 2013

        This is hilarious.

        Yes, as the “especially…” part (and “especially” is putting it mildly) makes clear, this is the sense of “re-action” which means “opposing” or literally “acting against”, not “responding”.

        Even “your match review is responding to the match” would be an idiotic thing to say. But that’s not what the word means.

    • Anonymous

       /  February 26, 2013

      The only thing I’ll say about your first point is that when you score you immediately give the ball back to the opposition so it’s very hard for the AB’s to have a high possession stat when they’re constantly scoring tries.

  20. A bit of ploiteness if you please Go Ruck Yourself. We don’t all have to agree but we can at least be civil, even on the internet.

    Your arguments seem a bit contradictory. You mention the 70% possession, but then decry the notion that a different (better?) fly half might have made more of that, or kicked the necessary points to win the match. We’ve been over the Madigan / Jackson / ROG / Keatley debate already, there’s no need for a re-run here, but let’s just say we flagged the place-kicking issue well in advance of the game, so we can leave it at that. Our preference was for Madigan, and as we said before, it is a preference made with reservations over his lack of experience, but the one which we felt offered the most. We’re only too aware that none of the options are exactly in Johnny Sexton’s league.

    As for the ‘it’s the players fault’ line of argument, you can make that for an individual game, a one-off loss – it would apply, to, say, Ulster’s defeat against Northampton this season when they uncharacteristically dropped everything and played as if somewhat distracted. But after four years of mediocre results and incoherent performances? Pull the other one, fella, it’s got bells on it.

    • Go Ruck Yourself

       /  February 25, 2013

      Apologies WoC, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings… My point was that I thought Jackson played very well apart from his kicking; a couple of errors aside, but it was great to see a young 10 be able to take it to the line and make effective decisions. To say Ian Madigan would have made a difference to goal kicking is really pushing it. He’s kicked well of late but he isn’t exactly Jonny Wilkinson just yet.

      I’d have to disagree re: Ulster-Northampton. I looked at that game and thought the players looked ill-prepared mentally as a group, which I would put at the feet of the coach. We have had two consecutive defeats for wildly contrasting reasons. England – handling errors and poorly executed kicking game. Scotland – poor goal kicking and a lack of composure in the red zone. These are largely uncontrollable. You can argue that selection could have taken care of the goal-kicking issue but when your Lions certainty 10 gets injured and his back-up decides to retire himself mid-game what can he do?

      On succession issues and squad building; when was Kidney supposed to bring through these squad players – against the All Blacks in the summer? Or in the must-win (from a World Cup seedings perspective) games in the autumn against SA and Argentina? If J-10 had gotten injured in the opening minutes of those games and PJ/IM/IK had rocked onto the pitch, Kidney would have looked like an absolute dickhead.

      • Is it really pushing it to say Madigan might have kicked those goals? We can’t ever know o it’s almost pointless to begin with, but he has one of the highest percentages in the Pro12 this year.

        Of course Madigan should have toured NZ this year. We said it loudly at the time. This terrified-to-make-a-change mentality is what has landed us in this position. There was nothing to lose on that tour. Kidney would have looked a right eejit if Madigan had to take the field alright, who knows maybe we’d have lost a match by sixt… oh.

      • montigol

         /  February 26, 2013

        That excuse about the “crucial World Cup rankings” games in Autumn is an absolute red herring. All test matches count towards the rankings, not just the two we played in November. Madigan has been better than O’Gara for this season and last to be frank and Madigan should’ve gone to New Zealand and got time in the autumn, rather than shuffling our best fly half to first centre in a move that made no sense despite being repeatedly tried for no reason other than an outstanding desire to shoehorn an inferior outhalf into the team. Frankly, I’m now kind of happy that Madigan’s inevitable international career isn’t going to be tainted by the inglorious end to the Kidney’s reign. If the IRFU pick anyone decent Madigan and Sexton will share the Irish 10 jersey until Hanrahan is ready to compete for it.

      • Manga's League

         /  February 26, 2013

        Go ruck yourself your talking through your ass… When are you just going to accept that the mad dog is the chosen one and will lead us to the promised land once kidney’s finally canned and we can send all his second tier bog parade back to Munster where they belong? I hear fas has a scheme they can all sign up to and get back to the building sites and farms. Stop embarrassing yourself with your patchy arguments and clear lack of rugby knowledge. I fear that your obvious emotional issues may be clouding your analysis and most likely stem from a physical issue such as male pattern baldness?

      • Go Ruck Yourself

         /  February 26, 2013

        WoC – with the benefit of hindsight you could argue that it was worth giving Madigan a run in the last game of the NZ series but do you really want a young 10 making his debut in such a low point for Irish rugby? Kidney could have brought Madigan but at the time, on merit, he wasn’t close to O’Gara. I’m all for bringing through youth but I don’t think a team should be handicapped for the sake of it. There could have been an argument for bringing him anyway but is it not a waste of his time to brought away for four weeks at the end of a long season just to train.

        Since then, Madigan has started goal kicking consistently for Leinster and has shown signs of development but until he starts controlling high-level games (H Cup, A Internationals), he remains unproven. While it might be an exaggeration to say Jackson has controlled games at H-Cup level, he has played well at that level and has also shown great character in recovering from the shocker he had in the H-Cup final to have a good first half of the season. You can’t say this about Madigan. He may come good but I don’t think you can base anything on a few games in the Rabo aginst half-strength opposition with Leinster’s pack providing him service on a platter.

        If Ireland had lost to Argentina with a half-strength team selected to build depth and risked being in a shocker of a group for the RWC Kidney would have been hung out to dry – and rightly so. Please don’t try to argue otherwise.

        • Bit of a weird wormhole you’ve built there Go Ruck Yourself. Who’s to say it had to be the lowest point for Irish rugby? Did Deccie know in advance we were going to lose 60-0? “Sorry Mads, I know you tied with Dan Biggar for a place in the Pro12 select this season and we’re needing a new 10 over the next 12 months but I’m afraid we’re going to be on the end of a couple of right good spankings at the hands of the murderous Kiwis, so I’m leaving you out of this one for your own good. Chin up and get Schmiddy to let you take the kicky-wicks at goal next year and.. erm… we’ll probably ignore you again.”

          And what’s all this ‘benefit of hindsight’ business. We called for it loudly at the time. It was a no brainer. Even Goebbels Thornley was in favour, for Gawd’s sake.

      • Xyz

         /  February 26, 2013

        Manga – this is an excellent demonstration of Poe’s Law in action

      • Go Ruck Yourself

         /  February 26, 2013

        My point was that if you could turn back the clock would you have wanted Madigan to play in that game? I wouldn’t. It might have been useful to bring him but I don’t think he should have played, so that begs the question; is it worth bringing a player who isn’t going to play?

        To be fair, Madigan put in his bulk of performances which led to his award while the internationals were away so there’s a bit of a skew there. Another point, if he was looking at a future reserve 10 last summer, he would have been entitled to think that Madigan had years of sitting on a bench behind JS at Leinster ahead of him (up until recently) so maybe that’s why he didn’t bring him. It’s a fair point to think you don’t want Ireland’s next reserve 10 to be the Leinster reserve so he instead grooms Jackson (Fiji, etc.) in the belief that Jackson will see much more game time in the 10 slot at Ulster over the coming years. It’s a fair point.

  21. RDS Curva Nord

     /  February 25, 2013

    Heaslip getting some very unfair flak I think.

    1. He played quite well
    2. They were well on top and had a shit kicker and so went to the corner. Maybe he should have had as little faith in his hooker’s darts as his kicker’s kicks. Remember BOD went to the corner twice in the first 20 in RWC QF, got nowt, and that was when he had access to ROG who was kicking brilliantly
    3. He is in an impossible situation. He can’t turn down the captaincy; yet he can’t effectively captain when the greatest ever is still there

  22. Don

     /  February 25, 2013

    Played well, yes. He was a monster at clearing out time.
    Captained well? No, he didnt. I thoughyt it would be a good idea. Unfortunality, and I am a big Heaslip fan even if I think he isnt playing as well as he could be right now, I dont think the captainngig will work for him. Maybe at Leinster but not for the country. Not yet anyway.

  23. One aspect not referred to much in the coverage of the game was a lack of trails run by backs or loose forwards. Only BOD ran trails for both breaks by Keet and LM, while SOB went on a solo with neither Heaslip or POM (at least) supporting. If finding weaknesses in the Scottish defence was part of the gameplan, why weren’t trails part of that? Is there an aerobic fitness issue? Do our forwards look pasted after continuous phase play? France on Sat night seemed to have little in the tank either when Eng came at them in the 4th quarter. Perhaps lack of conditioning somewhere along the line? Will be interesting to see if this gets airtime or press coverage in the coming days.

    • That is a crucial point and seems to underline the massive problem with gameplanning and strategy.

      The two breaks by Marshall and one by Earls were totally off the training ground. How can you work moves for linebreaks and fail to ensure the move is complemented by sufficient support play? Earls’ linebreak – for example – was a total waste of time and energy. It seems to be pretty 101 stuff for an attack coach, and something that is bread-and-butter at Leinster.

      People saying that this is they players’ fault alone seem not to grasp the basics of how attacking gameplans are developed.

    • Great point. It’s been a problem for eons. We rarely look for offloads or support the carrier effectively. The only time Ireland offload the ball is when a fellow is being driven over the touchline.

      This is about the biggest contrast with the way Leinster played over the previous two seasons, where there were usually trailer runners either side of the carrier. It’s among the most damning indictments of the current coaching team that they have not sought to bring this into Ireland’s attack.

      • Scrumdog

         /  February 25, 2013

        Beginners rugby… the ‘diamond support’ drill. The All Blacks revisit the basics and drill them over and over ..why cant Ireland? Support play was not of test caliber….whatever happened to backrow support on the inside? Expect the unexpected, players should be quick enough to react to the break out.

  24. Joe

     /  February 25, 2013

    Anyone else see potential parallels with Heaslip and Robshaw vis-a-vis learning how to captain a side? Just a thought, but I would give obviously give Jamie a chance to grow into the role in the next 2 games. A new coach will then obviously decide on whether he wants him as his captain (personally I would have chosen Sexton, then Jamie, then Best).

    Also, POM needs to start producing something in the game. I know stats can be misleading at times but in his time on the field he had 6 carries for a total of 2 metres, made 2 passes, made 3 tackles, took 2 line outs and gave away one penalty. He does not look a good enough No. 6. God you’d miss Fez big time.

    • Jayo

       /  February 26, 2013

      agree, and next time he should actually hit someone if he’s going to act like a psycho

  25. Anonymous

     /  February 25, 2013

    After the shock of how Scotland had won that match, part of me felt relieved that this secured Kidneys exit, which sums up the apathy I have towards the national team at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I hope desperately for an Ireland win, but there’s so much of the current set up not to like. There seems to be a lack of responsibility in the group, and they seemed far to happy with themselves after the autumn, despite a quite awful performance against South Africa, which was swept under the carpet. I think this comes from Kidney and the other coaches. I think we should go for a long overdue overhaul, which should have happened after the World Cup, but actually in terms of individuals, now might be a better time anyway. I think O’Driscoll is going to retire in the summer, POC seems done, and the less said about ROG the better. With the likes of Gilroy, Marshall and Zebo settled in now, we are ready for a complete restart, which I am actually quite excited about already. I think the two best options are Joe Schmidt and Cinor O’Shea, although I don’t think Schmidt will take it, so O’Shea it is. He can get an exciting, offloading game, which works which is the most important thing. I don’t think Heaslip has the leadership to be captain, and still needs to improve his game to get back to where he was two or three years ago, when he was a much better ball-carrier, although I understand he has changed his game, which is admirable, but when he does carry it’s not as effective as it was. Sexton would’ve been my choice, but now he’s off to France I doubt he’d get it. Best is playing brilliantly, but I think while he’s a good leader, he’s better without the captaincy, as seen by Ulster’s success with Muller. I think this leaves you with someone like what England have done with Robshaw, a leader seemeingly not necessarily assured of their place, but who is a good captain who can grow into it. A contender for this would be Henry, who is a good captain and seems great with pressure, but it is a risk if they’re off form, and they only get picked for the captaincy. I think Henry would be great, but he’s unlikely to be first-choice for Ireland unfortunately So there are plenty of candidates with their pros and cons, but there don’t seem to be many candidates left who are assured of their place in the team. I would choose Ferris when fit, as he’d be would be a great shout for leading by example, but is too rarely fit unfortunately, and for his own good needs to get back playing for a long run. I also think Murray would be a contender, but he’s a bit too up and down. So I think a good shout for the next captain, as someone who is guarenteed a start, well respected, leads by example and I think crucially, has that invincibility factor with referees when on form that McCaw and BOD have had, is….drumroll… Sean O’Brien. His one question mark would be actual leadership, but I think he has the calmness for the correct decisions, humility to listen others like Best and Sexton, and leads by his beastly example, so he’s my pick. Flip that was long, sorry! 🙂

    • roctober

       /  February 25, 2013

      In agreement with most comments above. Take exception to what’s being said re POM. One of the reasons SOB and Heaslip carried so much yesterday- the less said about effective carrying mind you – was because POM was essentially buried like a groundhog openside. The backrow a unit, was awful. The roles they are playing seem to confuse the players themselves at times.

      Another point re Earls butchering the inside ball – he did, no question and he’ll likely pay a price. But at least he’s got the pace to make linebreaks.

      Sad to see both BOD and Kearney trundling around out there like carthorses. BOD has some excuse, the man has so much credit built up by now. We’re working around his limitations. But it leaves us with an awful lack of pace in the wider midfield. Makes running support lines damned hard too.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 25, 2013

      Whats the infatuation everyone with O’Shea? Hes not a coach. Even if he comes on board a whole new coaching team will have to brought in around him. I could understand him coming in and replacing Wigglesworth and Browne, but as a head coach hes a non runner.
      Hes a conservative middle management type whose excellent at what he does. However what he does at Quins does not reflect Irelands need. We need someone to coach and dictate style, none of that appears to be O’Sheas remit at Quins.
      I recall he was advocating Sexton at 12 and O’Gara at 10, smacks of conservatism. We need a radical in charge. Not someone who will toe the party line.

  26. Buccaneer

     /  February 25, 2013

    Can anyone shed any light on why it appears we are only playing one test in November? If a permanent successor is not found before the June tour, he will have one test before next years 6N? Against BNZ no less!

    With the Irish Lions contingent getting smaller by the game I hope whoever is in charge in North America realises that tour should be about new combinations and getting young/fringe players gametime in Green. Putting up 100 points is not the priority

    • Scrumdog

       /  February 25, 2013

      The USA would have put Scotland to the sword and would not have taken the field without a kicker. Dont think anyone is going to put a 100 points on the Eagles in the near future!

  27. Sean

     /  February 25, 2013

    If a care taker is to come in prior to a full time appointment then why not give Brian McLaughlin a go with Mike Ruddock a close second.Ultimately Big Joe and his side kick Jonno Gibbs should get the job,these guys are the real deal.As a Leinster supporter it would pain me lose them but the national team comes first.Guys like Henderson,Luke M,Gilroy,Tommy Bowe,Ferris and Best should be in every 23 man squad pending injuries and form of course.Trimble with a proper game plan could be very effective too.

  28. Abitofshoepie

     /  February 25, 2013

    Agree with the sentiment of the article WoC. There is a very real chance that we will end up with a nice new wooden spoon this year. This has to be unacceptable for the IRFU, especially following the NZ debacle and especially considering the period of dominance the provincial sides have had in the pro12 and Heineken. I thought PJ did well with ball in hand, but even my wife was able to call his first missed penalty, with her basic knowledge being enough to recognise that he can’t kick from the right hand side (Ulster games dominate Friday night tv in our house!). If my dearest can spot this, shouldn’t our national coach know this sort of thing and plan for it? Either he doesn’t watch Ulster games (shame on him if so!) or he is partially negligent in his management role.

    I dont think it is all doom and gloom though. We do have a good pool of players, but need to be careful to broaden that pool and develop it so that we have more options and skill sets. We cant continue to have to rely on players like ROG, who should have retired as a legend, not a laughing stock. One thing I can’t help thinking about is that maybe the success of the provincial sides is now becoming a bit of a hindrance. Concentrating the talent at them is generating cash and club level success, but the IRFU now needs to take it to the next level by funding a sevens team to develop some young players and give them regular competitive international experience and hone ‘new’ skills. IMO if Earls had played sevens he wouldnt have butchered that opportunity on Sunday, he would be confident passing off both hands and would have looked up. They maybe also need to think about letting some more of our big names go abroad to broaden their experience and exposure to playing styles, coaching ideas and match scenarios, with the added bonus of creating space for younger players to develop at home. Even the All Blacks allow some of their key men to do this, so as long as it is managed so it doesn’t become a mass exodus, the Irish team could benefit from a deeper and more experienced pool of players to choose from.

    Only 2 years to go until our next shot at a Grand Slam!

    ps. Anyone else worried that Bradley is a free agent in the summer?

  29. Xyz

     /  February 25, 2013

    As others have pointed out O’shea isn’t the answer though he could be part of an effort to bring more professionalism to the IRFU set up. A full coaching team is still needed.

    Here’s what I think will happen though. A temporary coach (Axel, maybe) will be appointed. He’ll see what has happened in England with Lancaster (a few wins and the permanent job) and what looks like happening in Scotland and will bring a similar squad to this one (minus the few Lions that haven’t played themselves out of contention) to North America, will play a conservative game plan and get some decent margins of victories, will then be hailed by Goebells and his ilk as Mac an Cheannai and this whole sorry state of affairs will continue till the next world cup.

    How’s that for a miserable forecast?

  30. zdm

     /  February 25, 2013

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we oh so desperately need a Director of Professional rugby.

    With an organisation run by amateurs who will be around for 2-3 years before moving on, and who are basically there because they like being there, you get short sighted results where they desperately want to win the next match or the next tournament because it looks like they had something to do with it. When you don’t know what it takes to win a HC, how the hell can you expect to pick a coach capable of winning a world cup?

    Look at the set up England and the English clubs have compared to the Irish national teams and provinces – England have a purpose built complex where they always train and always prepare for matches from and where their permenant staff are based. I’m not too sure of the details of the IRFU (mostly because no one seems entirely sure) but as I understand it, the national team mostly trains at a University sports facility somewhere in the south west while the entire IRFU is based somewhere in Dublin. Oh and they don’t always train there and they go to a different place in Dublin to prepare for matches. Bath are about to move to a purpose built facility with GPS monitoring equiptment for their players while Ulster train at a sports club owned by the PSNI.

    If I was a coach of international standing and I was presented with this set up, I’d laugh my arse off and get back on the plane without a second glance. We need a Director of Professional Rugby who knows what is required to succeed as a professional player. I don’t even care who it is any more as long as we get one. Please!

    • “the national team mostly trains at a University sports facility somewhere in the south west”

      Steady on. I’m no fan of Kildare myself, but to describe the Carton House Hotel training base as “somewhere in the south west” is a bit harsh. And they probably wouldn’t like student types either, so go easy on the “University” accusations. 😉

  31. conorphilpott95

     /  February 25, 2013

    Very good piece, only complaint I would have (it’s not really a complaint more of an omission), Earls is rightly given out to for butchering a try chance at the very least (I wonder did BOD have the gas to get in), but why isn’t Marshall’s mentioned, it’s his first cap sure but that is basic skills you learn at U-8s, how to execute a 2 on 1. Throw the man and give, we butchered two inexcusable efforts as well as many more, for me it’s his first cap isn’t a goo enough excuse for that one.

    Great piece though

    • Fair comment, and I did notice the cover was quite close to catching BOD. Can’t recall exactly who it was though, which would be telling. Either way the correct option was to pass – even if BOD was tackled he was unlikely to get hauled out to touch.

      Also a fair comment with regards to Marshall, but at least he tried to do the positive thing, even if the pass was awful, whereas with Earls the frustration was that he appeared to tuck the ball under his arm, telegraphing his intentions and making the read easier for the defence.

      • conorphilpott95

         /  February 26, 2013

        Agree with that, Earls took the completely wrong option, for a guy who played outhalf in schools, his distribution and decision making is quite awful. Marshall showed good awareness but it should have been executed, a good debut aside from that though.

  32. Chris

     /  February 25, 2013

    Great article again WoC, and loving the comments from all of the above too, even if some people are getting a little over excited about their views!

    Key things I picked up on the way through; Heaslip had one of his best games in a while (excluding the pens) but as a captain he didn’t look happy again, I’m pretty sure I saw BOD making a couple of the calls to kick for touch as Heaslip looked around unsure of what to do. But . . . he wasn’t helped by the coaching team, they should have had a discussion before the game, knowing that PJ isn’t the strongest kicker, where they gave him some guidelines for when to go for points or to go for corners, and in what situations they would choose corners over posts based on momentum/field position but that clearly didn’t happen, and it made it all too obvious that no-one was comfortable letting PJ have a kick at goal and then when he was asked to kick, from within the tram tracks, he wasn’t confident. The first penalty they got inside or around the Scottish 22 should have been handed straight to him for a shot.

    There is an Anonymous post on here who said they were relieved that we lost because it should cement Kidney’s departure and I have to agree, for me it only happened when O’Gara came of the bench, I turned to my Scottish wife and said, “Congratulations” and sat back watched us secure a great loss.

  33. Rich

     /  February 25, 2013

    Struggling to understand some of the drivel on here – Luke Marshall did nt have a good game? Luke Marshall did more in 8 mins than Darcy has done in 5 years. The boy made some superb breaks, defended brilliantly and fought hard until the end. Gilroy should have come off his wing to take a short ball for the bad pass from Marshall – but better making a break and giving a bad pass than doing absoluetly nothing at all. Earls career was summed up in 10 seconds, nice swerve and break, then unrealistic attempt to go round a player quicker than him, not even see the simple pass for a team mate to score, no support and loses possession. No rugby brain at all.

    Other than that – much as i was glad Jackson started – he did nt kick his goals – bread and butter for an intl 10 – why not give Madigan a run – high on confidence and the boy backs himself – so get him in and Jackson on the bench. Jackson just looks like he wants it to end, instead of lapping up every minute of it. Heaslip poor – if we want someone to clear out rucks then play DOC at no 8 – his job is to carry off the base and carry off 1st receiver – he isnt doing that enough, but he has no competition so why bother………

    Murray continues to plod along, Redden isnt even a class act but he looked lightening compared to Murray. Murray seemed to have been told
    to slow everything down but when on front foot we should have been hammering them, not waiting for them to get reset, New coach and a new specialist attack coach who can help us realise that the quick ball we do generate needs to be used not slowed down to set up yet another ruck to try and generate more quicl ball.

  34. DaveW

     /  February 25, 2013

    I saw his name mentioned above, and the quote that he’d never coach Ireland because the politics wouldn’t let him. But every time I seem him on TV3 doing his (quite good) punditry, I always get the impression he seems to be grooming himself for the job. For a few years now – back to when Eddie was in charge – he’s been saying “the right things” that go against the established coach but appeal to many people.

    We could do a lot worse, especially if we’re waiting for someone of the quality of Schmidt to head back down under and maybe come back up after a few years. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking though, given I can’t see Schmidt taking the reins at all.

  35. Len

     /  February 26, 2013

    Ok it’s taken this long for me to calm down sufficiently to post. The team performance was shocking for a number of reasons. It was shocking how our scrum collapsed due to our flankers not focusing on job one pushing the prop in front of you thankfully this did seem to resolve itself as the game went on. It was shocking how our line failed to function again once we were in the last quarter of the pitch, this has been a serious problem for too long. It was shocking that we managed 70% possession and yet could not convert this into scores againstwhat is a defensively weak Scottish side. It was shocking how badly we dropped off in the second half and it was shocking to see our lack of game plan (even after four years of the same old rubbish). Yes the players have to take some of the blame but the same group manage to play with purpose for their province week in week out so the lack of plan rest firmly with the coach. The decision making on and off the pitch is mind blowingly awful. PJ should never have been lumped with kicking duties on his first start and with his kicking stats coming into the match. Just as with IM in Leinster when he first started we should have had an experienced goal kicker in another position to take that responsibility from PJ and let him focus on the other aspects of the game. To that end I’d have started McF in the centre ahead of LM but that’s just me. Heaslip seems totally incapable of making a decision without it going to committee a d even then they elected not to give PJ the easier early shots on goal and when they finally let him have a go it was on the wrong side. Someone else needs to take that on in the game against France be it McF or possibly even Kearny. As to the question of ROG if he proved that he couldn’t be trusted for a long spell in the England match then why was he even on the bench when the same thing could have happened again. His useful career is over and it’s sad to see him being sprung from the bench to further damage his legacy. Kidney needs to go and be replaced by a coach who will pick players based on form and not favour. Someone with no provincial ties and no preconceptions. Do I think he will be replaced, no. I think unfortunately that the IRFU will persist with Decci. He’ll point to the lets be honest huge injury list and ask “what do you expect when I’m missing so many key players?”. Until they actually announce he’s going I’ll expect him to continue. It’s depressing that five years on from the end of the EOS era we’ve actually gone backwards. At least for the most part under EOS we played consistent rugby and had a game plan. You know we’ve hit rock bottom when you find yourself agreeing with Hook. Don’t expect many changes for the France match and be prepared for a hiding. France started to tick against England and generally save their best performance for us.

  36. Thanks for a litany of great comments guys – so many we can’t get back to everyone and discsuss every topic, but thanks y’all for taking the time to contribute and keeping the conversation going.

  37. Yossarian

     /  February 26, 2013

    Off topic but did anyone see Quinlan on “Against the head”?He is either clueless or overly loyal to his former Munster Colleagues. Defending Kidney by blaming the injury to frontliners(despite we had more than enough ability on the pitch to win). Saying he was right on the ROG call by Ireland going to the corner instead of points 5 minutes in. That ROG would have taken the ball and popped it over.
    frustrating to see how he keeps getting work when there are so many proven good blogs(like this one) out there.

  38. Ben

     /  February 26, 2013

    Anyone who wants their national team to lose simply because they don’t like the coach doesn’t deserve a match ticket.

    I think DK’s time is up and I think it is a real shame that things have not worked because he is a good coach and there is a very good coaching set up in place.

    It is hard to know who to blame but it must come down to a collective acceptance by the team and coaches.

    I still take issue with the whole attitude to DK and selection/development. Case in point: Madigan. If Leinster are unwilling to pick him for say a Heineken Cup semi final or final then why should the national team experiment with him against the best team in the world (NZ Summer tour).

    Jackson is not the finished article yet but Ulster have backed him and put him in pressure games. Some have gone well and some badly but he is learning. Sexton had a similar curve before he could be relied upon to nail down the Ireland jersey.

    To analyse the performances without any reference to the absent players is simply to ignore context.

    Equally take a look at all the young/new players that Kidney has brought in; Healy, Cronin, Kilcoyne, Toner, McCarthy, Henderson, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Murray, Sexton, Marshall, Jackson, Earls, Zebo, Gilroy….and yes I know I’ve left out Ross, Strauss etc but it is illustrative.

    Whatever his reasons for picking them – injury or otherwise – he has brought them in.

    Like I said at the start it is a shame that it hasn’t worked in the red zone on the pitch but a little perspective, context and less baying for blood simply because you don’t like the team he picks.

    • rachel685

       /  February 26, 2013

      I think your argument about Madigan is a little disingenuous. Madigan doesn’t start for Leinster (or hasn’t until now) because he’s been behind Ireland’s starting 10. Which is exactly what he’d be doing if he were on the bench for Ireland against NZ or any other team. No one is talking about plucking a guy who ‘can’t even start’ for the province and propelling him to first choice for Ireland; Sexton is Ireland’s first choice outhalf and will be for the foreseeable future. It’s about ensuring that the next-best 10 after Sexton, whether that’s Madigan or Jackson, had enough experience before the 6 nations to step up in case Sexton got injured.

      I’ve just looked back at the NZ stats. ROG played nearly 90 minutes total across the 3 games, often with Sexton moving to 12 (a position in which he has never played and does not belong). What on earth was the point of that? What did we learn from it? Those matches meant nothing to the world rankings – they existed purely to give Ireland a chance to have a crack at the best team in the world. Imagine if Jackson or Madigan had been able to play even 25-30 minutes total across those games. How much more prepared would they be now to step into Jonny’s boots? You’re right that the young guys need to be given time to settle in, but that was a gigantic waste of an opportunity to begin that process much earlier.

      • I agree with Rachel’s line of thinking here. It’s not that Leinster ‘don’t trust him to start a Heineken Cup match’ at 10. It’s that they have the best 10 in Europe in Johnny Sexton and he’s the starting 10. If Jackson, ROG, Keatley, whoever was at Leinster, they’d be stuck on the bench behind Johnny.

        Paddy Jackson has to be better than Niall O’Connor to start at Ulster, but Ian Madigan has to be better than Sexton to get a start at Leinster. It ain’t the same thing. You can argue that because Jackson is first choice at Ulster that he has more big game experience, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish altogether.

  39. red razors

     /  February 26, 2013

    eh, it’s a bit ridiculous to say that the manner in which kidney introduced those players is irrelevant. it’s completely relevant – it shows the man can only operate outside of a specific set of players when his hand is forced. he brought many [most?] of them in because he had no other option. how can you congratulate a national coach for that?? the baying for blood isn’t because we don’t like the team he picked, it’s happening because declan kidney seems content to do as little as possible in his role, and to consign us to yet another ignominious few years while someone else tries to claw us out of the hole he has dug.

    i thought to myself after the england match that the players are not so much at fault as the team are. we have amazing players, but unlike england, who are going from strength to strength, we cannot seem to function as a single entity. england work well as a unit. there is no coherence to the irish team, and the fault for that lies firmly with the coaching ticket. these are players who perform for other teams and other coaches throughout the year. there is nothing wrong with them. as someone mentioned further up the page [sorry, can’t remember who] you have to be prepared to make selections based on what your best TEAM will be, not trot out a random fantasy rugby 15.

    it was so disheartening to see us lose a game that we should have closed out soon into the second half. instead we got unforced errors, loss of discipline, and the inevitable penalties.
    heaslip – i supported his choice as captain, but he hasn’t been able to get it together yet. he has some massive boots to fill though. i don’t envy him the task. i don’t think anyone benefits from demoting him before the end of the tournament though. paddy jackson got dealt an awful rough hand. he knows as well as anyone else what his kicking stats were like leading up to the match, and it was criminally unfair to put sole responsibility for kicking on him.

  40. Ben

     /  February 26, 2013

    It is in no way disingenuous to suggest that a player should have some experience of playing top flight rugby in pressure games.

    Selecting a 10 who is not first choice for his province and has not been selected at 10 by his province or club for any key, high pressure games is exactly what is being suggested.

    (and please don’t come back with Michael Bent as it was a very different set of circumstances)

    I like the way Madigan is developing and next season will be an acid test with Sexton gone. If Madigan nails down the 10 shirt for Leinster for the Heineken Cup then yes he has a case to make for a green jersey.

    With regard to the new players – it is totally irrelevant how they came in to the side. What is relevant is that they are there. Go through them all and pick the reasons all you want – injury, form, because he is good enough etc. So what? DK has brought in sufficient new/young players to fill a starting XV from the side that won the GS.
    You may not like when or why he brought them in but that isn’t relevant – you’re not the national team coach.

    I call it baying when you make remarks like: “declan kidney seems content to do as little as possible in his role, and to consign us to yet another ignominious few years while someone else tries to claw us out of the hole he has dug.”

    That is baying. It is baseless and it is unfair on a man who appears to be highly principled, committed and loyal. He doesn’t shirk the bad stuff, he doesn’t push other coaches or players out to take the flak.

    As per my previous post it is shame that it hasn’t worked. That alone means there is need of change but take a look at how bad you feel and imagine if you were the Ireland coach or the Ireland captain. I’m pretty sure they are both decent honest men and feel a hell of a lot worse about it than you.

    • Your argument on Madigan is not without its merits. But it’s not the only way of looking at things. Just because a player has a modicum more experience than another doesn’t mean he is the better footballer, or the right player to pick. Kidney picked Paddy Jackson to start against Scotland, over Madigan. The Heineken Cup experience in question boils down to 7 starts for Jackson and one for Madigan (let’s be generous and discount the four he has made at 15 this season). That’s six more H-Cup starts. Looking at their whole body of work, Jackson has 32 apperances for Ulster against Madigan’s 71, in which he has scored 15 tries. Suddenly it’s not so clear cut.

      Let’s look next at how they’ve played. Jackson has not yet shown he can dominate matches, at any level, be it Pro12 or H-Cup. Madigan has put in a large number of eye catching performances (and some rubbish ones too, in particular on the back foot, so let’s be fair), and his try-count is outstanding for a 10. Next we can look at the place-kicking stats, which would again be a tick in the Madigan column. I fail to see from looking at each player’s experience that Madigan falls so far short as to making his selection unthinkable – given the pickle in which we find ourselves (i.e. we would all prefer if both Madigan and Jackson had some international experience on which to fall back, but they don’t).

      Personally, I think you’re attaching too high a premium to six Heineken Cup starts vs. what Madigan brings to the game.

    • Len

       /  February 26, 2013

      Actually the way the players are picked has a lot or barring. You can’t expect new players to be blooded and the team to develope if a coach continues to select the same match day 23 year after year unless someone is injuried and in complete disregard for form. That leads us to our current malaise where our starting 10 is injuried and we discover that the coaches other fav 10 is no longer up to the task and everyone else have no experience worth talking about. Having a coach who’s to conservative to change means in the larger scheme the national team takes a backward step. I don’t think (at least I am not and hope no one else is) anyone is questioning DKs loyalty or committment to Ireland or the Irish team but it. However your correct in saying that as a coaching ticket bar the first season this hasn’t really worked.

  41. Yossarian

     /  February 26, 2013

    Kidneys comments after the game when he was questioned about his future were “i will do what i always do and prepare us for the next game” and that is exactly what he has done throughout his entire tenure. John Hayes was 38 before he was replaced because Kidney felt he was the best option on the day. ROG was on the bench because he was deemed the second best 10 behind Johnny. Kidney either through IRFU direction or his own conservatism sets teams up for one game at a time. That lack of foresight is what forced his hand with Jackson and Marshal agaisnt Scotland and will see teams selected for France and Italy with no forward thinking to future competitions.

  42. Rich

     /  February 26, 2013

    Beginning to come round to Madigan – his goal kicking looks more assured so why not? Jackson did nt look comfortable at all with any of his kicks, so not like Madigan could have done any worse. I was not sure about the merits of bringing a young 10 on a SH tour but actually – we should have

    Jackson wil kick for Ulster this weekend which is positive but won t prove anything – needs that big game environment. Reading that Sexton is ahead of schedule – if he does return would like to think jackson will be on the bench. Also read that DOC commented that he did nt think a test match was the place to learn – a slight dig at Jackson i suspect – odd comment – especially as in his 93 tests he still does nt seem to have learned what a lock is supposed to do other than “Stand where Pauly tells me too”

  43. L.P.O.

     /  February 28, 2013

    Ok… just about ready to comment now… depression waning. Good thing I backed against, I suppose. Had to mention the following. Finally able to watch ‘Against the Head’ last night. The consensus from the panel was a) we’re desperately unlucky to be missing the players we are missing. They ignored the fact that with the players available we should have tanked a rather poor Scottish outfit. b) Pushed by Quinlan and run with by the rest: Kidney took a brave risk on Jackson which backfired… however, if he’d done what he should have, and started O’Gara, we’d have won handily.

    There was no mention of O’Gara’s deteriorating game 4 years on the slide… no mention of that cross-field kick in his own 22 which put the match beyond us. Just like the omertà in the autumn, or after England… or after the Lions… etc. etc. etc. Outstanding stuff.

    Nice article, lads. Cheers.

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