Upon Sober Reflection

We said before the tournament that four wins would constitute a good year, with three the minimum requirement. In the event, Ireland finished well below that watermark, with one win and one draw. That the win was against the eventual champions was scant consolation, and we can be thankful we didn’t meet the confident incisive Welsh of Week Five, instead the cowed losers of Week One.

The final indignity was the tactical ineptitude of Rome where Plan A – box-kicking until the cows come home – was dealt with with ease by the Azzurri, then Plan B – errrrr, kicking them? – didn’t work either, and their forwards pummeled us to win with ease. A fair reflection of the dominance of the Italian pack would have been a 20 point margin. In the event, the inability of the Italians to press home their advantage, and their inability to stop throwing the ball forward spared us the shame of finishing last, but no-one will be boasting about that.

For sure, unavailability of certain players played a part – the lineout was shambolic in Paul O’Connell’s absence, and the tendency of our forwards to powder-puffery would surely have been dealt with by Fez. Likewise, having Johnny Sexton in Murrayfield might have made the difference. It’s hard to think of any Irish player who will feel he can be satisfied with his overall contribution. Some of the players playing their first tournament, particularly Luke Marshall and Iain Henderson, will be proud of themselves as well.

The indisciplined and brainless rabble who finished the championship are far from where they should be given the on-field and off-field resources available to this side – the team in Rome looked essentially uncoached, and it’s quite clear a new broom is sorely needed. The prospect of promoting Les Kiss or Anthony Foley from within looks wildly misjudged.  Surely a new set of voices, untainted by the recent spirit-crushing shambles, with fresh ideas and a different mindset are required?  The line being peddled by Kidney’s apologists, that the current management have ‘valuable corporate knowledge’ that shouldn’t be thrown out is laughable.  What value is corporate knowledge when you keep losing?  Indeed, the very lack of preconceptions for a new coach coming in sounds much more appealing.

The player management system would appear to have reached the end of its current life cycle as well – Johnny Sexton bemoaned the lack of rugby he could play earlier in the year due to its strictures, and the spate of injuries surely speaks to some level of sub-optimal conditioning. While some degree of control over player game-time is desirable, the strings need to be loosened significantly.  At the very least a review of this is required, with a view to understanding whether the players gain anything a t all from playing so little.

Likewise, the central contracting system is just unclear and divisive – criteria are muddled, and a broader view is needed in this, the 18th season of professional rugby. We know as little as everybody else as to how these contracts are given out.  The system was perfect to entice English-based players home in the late 1990s, and protect what was then a handful of international class players, but something more malleable is needed now.  The situation where the IRFU are negotiating with an injured player – recently the case with Ferris, Fitzgerald and some time ago with Denis Leamy – is only going to become more commonplace, and a more flexible system is needed to accomodate this.  It cannot be that players recovering from serious injury are just cut loose from the system, although some levity is required here too, and the IRFU has a responsibility to manage its finances correctly.

Speaking of English-based players in the late 1990s, the last defeat to Italy, as we outlined here, was something of a watershed in Irish rugby, and contributed the IRFU to be pro-active about professionalism – here’s hoping this one can turn out to be a turning point as well, and be the catalyst to moving Irish rugby’s governance and structures in line with best professional practice. We could do a lot worse than copying the system in New Zealand – we may not have the history and strength in depth they have, but their structures produce success at all levels (underage, Super Rugby, international) and they want to be the best they can at all times. We should as well.

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67 Comments

  1. Amiga500

     /  March 19, 2013

    Anyone here have any confidence in the higher ups in the IRFU actually cleaning the system out?

  2. Len

     /  March 19, 2013

    Lots of good point here lads. I don’t fully agree with you that POC would fix the line out as I think the difficulties we had were more down to poor throwing by both hookers. I think when we lost earls, then Fitzy and Marshal in quick succession we swere always doomed. The decision to move o’mahony to the backs still puzzles me and I felt that maybe Murray should have been switched to that position and P Marshal given a run. It’s not like we had anything to loose. I know the IRFU don’t want to be seen to rush the decision re the coaching ticket but three weeks seems an awfully long time.

    • In fairness, POM has played on the wing for Con, as we are often told by Frankie Sheehan and his ilk…

    • Marshall has also played on the wing for Ulster – he played there the first time I saw him 4 or 5 years ago. Putting O’Mahony there was just bizarre. However, it was ultimately irrelevant as, bar one chip in behind, he wasn’t really asked questions.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  March 19, 2013

        POM spends most of the match hanging out there anyway, it caused the least disruption, he only had to move out a few meters and he still made his usual impact on the game, getting through copious amounts of unseen work.

    • Amiga500

       /  March 19, 2013

      Disagree with you there Len.

      When the opposition jumpers are getting up between a half a foot and a full foot above our jumpers, while only about half a foot in front of them – what is the thrower meant to do? It is incredible pressure on the thrower – he is aiming for the eye of a needle from 20 yards away!

      Our jump timing has been poor, our lifting has been bad and our calls despite these facts were shambolic!

      Look at the French game – great variety to the line out calls and the French didn’t know what to do. But, for Scottish and Italian games, no variety and thus the opposition just picked them off.

      Yes, Best did have bad throws and I feel his throwing has gone backward from RWC2011 – but I’m putting a lot of the blame on the rest of the forwards for a pretty poor showing. It’ll be interesting to see how the lineouts work when he is back at Ulster.

      • Anonymous

         /  March 19, 2013

        Glad someone else noticed this. It’s a frustrating knee jerk that a poor line out equals poor throwing and a good line out equals good work by the locks.

        Our lifting in particular was so laboured this championship. Hamilton picked off our throws with ease because our lifters were static and slow so he was always half a foot in front and half a foot higher.

        The shambles that was our line out was typified by Tom Court having to relay the call to Best because none of the jumpers had bothered or remembered to give it

      • Marius

         /  March 19, 2013

        Was the lineout ‘success’ against the French really a result of great variety or that the French decided to just not compete at all? I agree that there was a variety in the calls but in the second half it seemed as though even if we brought on Wee Man to catch the lineout ball, the French still would not have lifted a finger to compete.

        Was Devin Toner used in the lineout at all? I’m just curious because I don’t recall seeing him being the target once, when his 4-5 inch height advantage could have been used, at least to test the Italians in a different way.

      • Amiga500

         /  March 19, 2013

        Devin Toner can’t jump. He stands at 6′ 10″ tall, but jumps to a height of 6′ 3″.

    • Peat

       /  March 19, 2013

      Len, its certainly more than the hookers’ fault. At a guess over half the ball went to Donnacha Ryan – that would be his call, not the hooker’s – which meant it was very easy to disrupt Ireland’s lineout by the simple expedient of putting a good jumper straight in front of him and having him jump when he did. Even the slightest imperfection in the throw becomes a major issue then. Re-introduce POC; all of a sudden you have two jumping locks and the calls should stop going straight to Ryan every time. Don’t recall too much use of the shortened lineout or the quick one, both good pressure relievers. Interestingly Ireland’s lineout percentage stood at 83.87 before the final round – above both England and Wales at that stage. Almost undoubtedly lower by the end mind.

    • Amiga500

       /  March 19, 2013

      Sure whats the harm in putting POM to the wing?

      He normally faffs around somewhere outside the 13 channel anyway instead of getting involved in those big nasty rucks where all those big forwards make a lot more difficult to look convincing as a hard man compared to picking on wingers.

  3. While Les Kiss has a wise rugby brain we need a complete clear out with a new man with as you’ve put it ‘new voices’ and new ideas. A certain journo today (he’s a big fan of Heaslip apparently….cough cough) has suggested Les Kiss on the basis that this would provide continuity! Quite frankly more of the same is something we certainly don’t need.

    • Thornley also mentioned the continuity issue. Continuity?!!? Continuity of what exactly?! Losing matches!? The whole thing beggars belief.

    • Yossarian

       /  March 20, 2013

      If kiss was the attack coach he has to go!we had more possession against Scots and English and were even with the Italians in the possession stakes.we looked useless with the ball.realignment and options for the ball carrier were dreadful.

  4. Leinsterlion

     /  March 19, 2013

    After four years of steadily declining performances matched by Enron style cheerleading from the press and management. The debt that was glossed over and hidden is finally laid bare, and no amount of excuses from Goebells can cover it up. Like Enron, team Ireland exploded spectacularly (in Ireland’s case,60-0 v NZ), laying bare the years of gross mismanagement. Unlike Enron, the management team limped on with their cold dead hands on the tiller, until the Irish team crashed onto some Italian rocks in a manner the captain of the Costa Concordia would be proud of. Goebells is right Deccie can still pass on corporate knowledge, like Enron, he can serve as a warning of how not to run an international set up.

    The press still continue to parrot the old canards of injury and bad luck, (watch “against the head” as Sheahan,Quinny and Goebells do their best Comical Ali impression, in falling over themselves to excuse Kidneys competence). Ignoring the absence of gameplan for the majority of Kidneys reign has been a feature of the press cheerleaders, hence their bewildered expressions and being unable to fathom why repeatedly kicking away possession hasn’t worked out.
    No one emerges from this debacle with any credit, people mention Foley, wow such a hard job getting talented players to continue doing what they do at club and international level, defend well. Kiss is the genius who covered up the fact that Murray cant play scrumhalf as his only discernible talent is kicking away possession(which was lauded by the lemmings in the press). Kidney has been discussed ad nauseum, he never was an international coach end of story. Gert Small has to bear some responsibility for continuing Jake Whites 07 policy of playing with two 6′(which incidentally JW has discarded by playing two 7’s with the Brumbies, successfully I might add). WOC is right a sweeping brush is needed, I would advocate dynamite, but either will do. All I can say is I’m glad this nightmare is finally at an end, even if it took four dire years and the ending of Dricos international career for it to come to pass.
    I would second your line of thought in contracting a NZ setup and mimicking how they set up and underage level.
    My choice for the new regime if Jake White, Mallet or Schmidt( who would all command their own backroom staff) are unbelievable.
    Doorey as backs/attack coach, Strawbridge as HC, Jono Gibbes as Forward coach. All NZ’rs, all competent, all with a history of working with high octane sides.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  March 19, 2013

      I like it. Just who is Doorey and Strawbridge as HC?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  March 19, 2013

        Grant Doorey former league player. He’s a Backs/Skills/Attack assistant coach at the Blues, hes worked in France under Liveremont at Dax playing the style of rugby that got ML the french gig. He(in conjunction with GH) have revitalised the Blues attack. He’s very highly regarded in NZ and has a good rugby brain. Andrrew Strawbridge has a role equivalent to what Schmidt did at Clermont but with the Chiefs, hes working under Wayne Smith. My reasoning for both is seeing as how we cant get Henry or Smith we might as well get the next best thing at super rugby level. Both are running teams that play attacking high intensity rugby, just what Ireland needs and has the body type for. Obviously I would prefer Schmidt, White or Mallet based on HC coaching experience, but I think a raid on NZ assistant coaches would be the best contingency plan and inline with the provinces coaching brains trust.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  March 19, 2013

        *edit Doorey worked under St.Andre at Bourgoin not Lieveremont at Dax, my mistake.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  March 19, 2013

        Sound Logic. I’d like to see Sir JK’s name thrown in. Not that he’d get/want the job but the culture shift in Auckland this season over last is astonishing. I fear Connacht are in for a horrible surprise. (I hope I’m wrong)

      • Leinsterlion

         /  March 19, 2013

        I share your reticence over Lam, his reign in comparison to what JK and GH have done, doesnt bode well for the weshties. Although with less egos to massage he might do ok. Still you’d have to worry about a guy who cant coax performances out of Nonu, Weepu and McAllister.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  March 19, 2013

        Weepu and McAlister, Yes.
        There’s something about the likes of Nonu and Woodcock that appear to now only play well for BNZ. Their ego’s seem nearly impossible to control. The Highlanders aren’t looking as good as last year despite the obvious intake of talent.

  5. An abject campaign. We should have won 4 out 5 and the failure to do so is solely down to tactics and preparation from what I can see.

    The real question now is not who would we want next, it is who would realistically accept working within the archaic and restrictive IRFU structures. The bigger southern hemisphere names being bandied about would surely not want to sit down with the blazers before each match to explain their tactics. It would of course be great if they did but its not realistic.

    The most realistic scenarios of those floating about involved either Ruddock or Kiss. The former would clearly need to put together a comprehensive and convincing management team for his application to be relevant. The latter has – arguably and sadly – been at the heart of all that is wrong with the Irish team since the world cup (namely attack). His defensive system, which Foley has managed to tweak and maintain, has been the major positive of this campaign of course. However, surely all the bad habits of the current team and the baggage they have needs to be purged.

    All of which skirts around the elephant in the room: the IRFU itself, its archaic structures and its quirky rules (player management, central contracting), which no longer seem up to the task.

  6. Indeed. I believe one of the papers suggested that keeping Les Kiss (or another of the back room staff) would “ensure continuity”. Yes it would; I think discontinuity is absolutely necessary at this stage. Time for a reboot. Off and on again. Plug out, wait thirty seconds, power back on. Etc etc.

    That’s not to say I don’t have time for some of the things LK (as an example) appears to have done. Or even Declan, despite the fact that his adherence to his own style of media delivery felt more and more like a big two fingers to fans who would also like a bit of straight-up honesty on occasion, following defeat after defeat after defeat. On a personal level, I have no issue with any of them. But Irish rugby is in a mire right now and I can’t fathom any argument that concludes with the current ticket deserving a new deal.

    Like some of the others, I have no faith in the IRFU appointing the right man to coach the side, let alone re-work the entire professional game structure (as clearly needs to happen).

  7. bob

     /  March 19, 2013

    I’m fed up with all the negativity. We had a bad year, end of the moaning please. In fairness it was obvious this was coming from the earlier rounds in the Heino. Ulster were the only team performing and they have a smaller representation on the Irish national squad.

    The Italian game cannot be looked at as a normal game so the harsh comments above seem a bit over the top. Other teams would have struggled to win that game after losing there first choice out half, one center, one winger, and then even your winger replacement. Thats not even including all the other injuries before this match. Lets name the backline that finished the game, Jackson, BOD, Madigan, O’Mahony,Gilroy, Kearney. The dis-organisation was evident but could you blame them. As a result Jackson stood way too deep and tried to force the Italians to make mistakes, conservative but sound logic. Just wasn’t executed very well. Lets not forget this Italian side was sound defensibly against most teams. In regards to Best, he missed too many easy throws (no competition against jumper). How many times was D Ryan reaching behind his head trying in vain to catch another wild throw??

    I put this years 6 nations poor showing down to a number of factors,
    1. Provinces playing poorly this year (Ulster recent Rebo form included)
    2. Injury list beyond anything experienced in previous 6 nations
    3. Lack of depth in Irish system in key positions (will always be there)
    4. Bad weather – (I still think we would have beaten Eng & Fra with better weather i.e. we cannot stand toe to toe with big packs)
    5. Poor Management decisions

    The positives from this year,
    1. We beat Wales (stopped their grandslam)
    2. When we did have a functional team, we looked good.
    3. We gave experience at 6 nations level to a large number of young players. This will stand to us in the coming years.
    4. Change of management – not to do with the results but new management team coming in has me excited to see what ideas they can bring to the table. The players need a change after all this time.

    • “Ulster were the only team performing and they have a smaller representation on the Irish national squad.” – I think you need to go off and think about this statment and what it means a bit more closely.

      Toland did an excellent job today of going through the team that was on the pitch even after the injuries against Italy, and ably demonstrated that it should still have been strong enough to win the game; but we panicked and played rubbish. The team looked uncoached. What dod you want us to say exactly? That we’re great, really?

      • bob

         /  March 21, 2013

        The reason Ulster have less of a representation is simple, their top performers are foreign players, Afoa, Muller, Pienaar, Williams, Diack (only recently qualified). Each one of these players would have made the 1st team.

        Why wasn’t that team good enough,……..we had a flanker and two out half’s in our backline. Who was going to give us go forward ball? Bod facilitates other players to make breaks and Kearney is playing very poorly by his own admission. The other younger players would have looked to these two players for inspiration. None came. Management had nothing to do with this on field situation. Additionally,There was a week break since the french game so that would have meant a rest week in training so I doubt they would have practiced this backline formation. Of course if they had stuck O’Mahony out on the win during practise this would have made them looked coached then I suppose?

        Englands first team struggled against a tough Italian defense at home, how would that game have changed if they had experienced the same level of player loss, positional movement and the game had been moved to Rome??

      • Pretty selective stuff there on Ulster. Henry, Henderson, Trimble, Cave and Court have all been among their best players this year.

        You appear to holding the senior players entirely responsible for the Italian collapse, but management escape any blame. That’s fine and all, but it’s not liek the Italian match was a one-off. Results have been poor for four years and there’s no evidence that Ireland would have played better without the injuries. Management have to carry the can at some point.

        I don’t understand the rest of the post. England played rubbish against Italy and almost lost. Is that an excuse for our performance throughout the Six Nations or something?

      • bob

         /  March 21, 2013

        Henry – Injured, Henderson – bench, Trimble – lost place to gilroy, Cave – ahead of BOD?,Court – 50/50. You appear to be absolving the senior players from any blame. Management gave them a game plan, they failed to deliver the plan. The results have been annoyingly inconsistent rather than universally poor, we have had some good results in that time too. I think management should be changed too by the way as I think it has gone a bit stale but I try not to let my frustration cloud my views, some people are just very bitter.

    • Yeah. We had a bad year this year. And last year. And not a great one the year before. But, apart from that… Come off it. A constantly declining performance curve since 2009 culminating in our worst season this millennium.

      As for the other nugget: Ulster’s representation hasn’t been higher this millennium, despite them having a number of frontline players injured or carrying injuries. Regardless, what a totally irrelevant point.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  March 19, 2013

      Lack of depth should not always be there.

      We have one less Professional team compared to NZ. And Connacht over the last three years are making really strong positive steps towards genuine sustainability while slowly shaking the “Development” tag.
      We as a public are conditioned to ignore our club structures and buy into this awful ‘A’ competition. Just visit the new Leinster website and look at the players’ bios. Their schools are top of the page while some get mentioned playing for a club at some point but it is clearly of minimal importance in their eyes.
      The reason NZ are strong is that their ITM cup ,our AIL, is structured in a way that concentrates the talent levels enough to have a very high level of domestic competition.
      No domestic play-offs, far too many all Ireland clubs and bugger all support from IRFU / provincial set-ups are reasons for the pillars of Irish rugby being so unstable. The ’09 slam and provincial successes over the years have been a nice veneer with wich to look at our game in a positive light.
      Heads at the top should go (blazer boys) New pro men in and then fix the foundations.
      From what I’ve seen this year, the schools (Connacht, Leinster and Ulster at least) are doing a great job at the initial phase of player development. It’s time to fill in the gaps.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  March 19, 2013

      A bad year? 16 wins out of the last 40. Gross mismanagement of playing resources. Complete failure to develop gameplan in four years, resulting in critics lauding the tactical masterclass of a 9 boxkicking and our 13 being phased out of the attack for the last two years, rarely getting his mitts on the pill. What other coach could get away with narrowing the gameplan to remove Ireland best back in history from the gameplan?
      As for defending Jackson standing deep and relying on the Italians making a mistake as “sound logic” LOL. We shouldnt be afraid of the Italians no matter what back line we have. Rugby is not about not making mistakes as Kidders would have you believe, its about empowering players to take control of the game and trying to win it, as opposed to trying not to lose.That is a big difference in philosophy, and that is the failing of the Kidney regime and its supporters. NZ dont go out trying not to lose, they go out trying to win.
      The “injury list” is a canard, we have the players and the depth to compete in the 6N, we are not facing NZ four times in a row here, its Italy and Scotland, borderline tier 2 nations. France were a shambles, even worse than us, yet we contrived to gift the game to them.
      The weather is no excuse, NZ put 40 points on teams in the lashings of rain in Dunedin with regularity, and have no trouble shifting the ball.
      Kidney should never have gotten the job, it was downhill from the GS unil we hit bottom with the 60-0 last summer, we have scraped along since then. This 6N is not a fluke, its the culmination of four years of gross mismanagement by a coach who has reached Steve Staunton-esque status through his banal and bizarre media utterances, combined with horrendous playing style and shocking results. Bad year?? this is four bad years coming home to roost.

  8. Len

     /  March 19, 2013

    I will happily concede that the line out fail throughout the series was not solely down to bad throwing. I think based on what others have said here that its down to a combination of errors including timing between jumpers and hooker. In relation to potential new coaches Scrum.com has it that the deal has already been done an we’re getting Ewen McKenzi from the Reds.

    • Open as I am to appointments from outside the current coaching ticket, it sounds like this guy would be using Ireland as a springboard to the Australia job…

      That being said, it’d take one hell of a stint with Ireland to tempt the ARU considering their disregard for all things North-Hemispherian. If he can coax a Grand Slam and a RWC semi-final from this jumble of powder-puffery then bring it on.

  9. Manga's League

     /  March 19, 2013

    I think you paint a somewhat unfair picture of the IRFU. While obviously recent seasons have been a backward step and change is certainly needed, they are not the bumbling buffoons that you seem to make out. The 18 years of professionalism have been in large a great success for Irish rugby, as evidenced by the achievements of the provinces in Europe (unthinkable 20 years ago). We are now complaining (and rightly so) about losing to Italy, however barring a few patchy periods of success we were Italy up until the mid 90’s. The sport has grown exponentially in Ireland, to the point where we now have clubmen from Nenagh RFC and Carlow RFC in the same national team. With the possible exception of Argentina, I cannot think of another nation that has improved its rugby credentials so vastly since the introduction of professionalism. Your recent proclamations that they are an ‘amateur’ organisation is poorly considered.
    This campaign has most definitely been flawed and the management do deserve a huge amount of criticism for the manner in which we consistently fell apart, however it could almost as easily been a huge success (handling against England, kicking against Scotland, discipline against France and I don’t know what the hell against Itlay).
    While Foley is a long way off the level of an international standard head-coach, I find it ridiculous to include him in the ‘wildly misjudged’ bracket considering that in the games that we lost, we only conceded 1 try…he is the national defensive co-ordinator. You could argue that the ridiculous amt of penalties conceded were somewhat within his domain but then again there were only 4 kicked by England and Scotland….not an insane amount.
    There is no question that Kidney should go, as his results speak for themselves, but again I think you paint an unfair picture of a man who clearly does know a thing or two about rugby (his past record at all levels ,not just Munster, also speaks for itself). It didn’t happen for him with Ireland, for a number of reasons, many of them his own doing, but the portrayal of him as a clueless idiot is ridiculous!

    • While the Irish national team was on an almost constant upward curve in the decade to 2009, they have been on an almost constant downward curve since then. The IRFU has sat still for too long and a big shake up is needed if the international side is to be allowed to realise the obvious potential that the provinces show our players have. At the core of this is ending the micro-management by a group of senior bureaucrats, who are out of touch with the game.

      Also, you cannot use the provinces as examples of the IRFU’s success. From a Leinster perspective, the IRFU has been a barrier to success at times. The Leinster model took a while to develop but it’s success and profitability is largely independent of the IRFU.

      • Manga's League

         /  March 19, 2013

        The provinces are ‘branches’ of the IRFU.

      • An archaic description that predates professionalism by 100 years. They have independent balances sheets (Leinster is not propped up and generates a profit) and their interests are certainly very often at odds – ask Joe Schmidt.

    • Some good points about the IRFU, who have got plenty right down the years, but have stood still over the last few seasons, seemingly to pat themselves on the back rather than keep aiming at the constantly moving target.

      But can we please leave all this ‘it could have been so different’ argument out? It wasn’t, so it isn’t. We won one game, so that’s that. As we posted last friday, you can draw the same equivalence with Kidney’s grand slam and win over Australia – fine margins, bad luck with injuries (for our opponents) and so forth. You can’t have it both ways.

      Kidney’s record of achievements deserves respect, and we do not for a moment believe him to be a clueless idiot. However, his decsion-making in the four years since the Grand Slam (not just this season!) have been poor, and the team has been on a downward slide since 2009. As you say, the results speak for themselves.

      • Manga's League

         /  March 19, 2013

        I don’t want it both ways. Our grand slam wasn’t very convincing and our near wooden spoon wasn’t either! I didn’t get overly excited in 2009 and I am not over-reacting in 2013. He had 4 years in charge and he under-achieved. I would also put a lot of this down to a national expectation that was out of synch with reality. The players at his disposal are not the world beaters that many seem to think they are. We had an excellent pack which got us as far as 2009 allowing a few exciting backs to look better than they really were. We don’t have anyhting near that pack anymore and those backs are fewer and farther between!

      • I think we’ve had our share of ‘world-beaters’ during the Kidney era. Healy, O’Connell, Ferris (who haven’t always been unavailable), O’Brien, Sexton, O’Gara, O’Driscoll, Bowe, Kearney have all been ranked as among the best in their positions during Kidney’s reign. And I wouldn’t say the players in between were exactly journeymen. This coaching ticket has never implemented a particular style of play. The tactics since ’09 have resembled water being bailed out of a sinking ship with varying degrees of success and desperation.

    • paddy

       /  March 19, 2013

      No that last comment is complete nonsense! If we are well able to do it at provinical level (and Kidney did) we should be able to bring it forward to international level. The rules have changed since the slam so even with that pack we wouldn’t be able to repeat 09 as we proved in 10.

      Look I think the players at his disposal are better than 60-0. I think they’re better than Scotland and Italy. I’d add the current French team to that and I think they could beat England on there day. Which leaves Wales who we bet. But to be clear it’s not all about Slams and championships just being competitive for 80 minutes. We’re not!

      It isn’t out of sync with reality to expect a team composed of players from 2 HC quarter finalist to produce more than 40 minutes of competitive rugby. Really hate that peasant mindset! And yeah you do want it both ways.

    • toro toro

       /  March 19, 2013

      Spot on, Manga. The popularity and participation of the game have grown exponentially, and we are running a virtual conveyor belt of young lads capable of playing at the highest. level.

      The national team management has been wretched over the last three years, and it is perfectly legitimate to criticise the IRFU for failing to address that situation more quickly than it has. Why that means (a) the professional game structure must be compeltely rebuilt from scratch, (b) the committee must be sacked, (c) men who build and run the nation’s clubs for no pay, most of them successful and skilled businessmen, lawyers, accountants, executives, must be cut out of the decision making process because they are “amateur”, i.e. do it for no pay, or (d) David Humphries should be allowed to do whatever he likes – all of which have been repeatedly claimed on this thread or recent ones – has never been satisfactorily explained.

      Nobody knows what “the blazers” do, but we think it has something to do with Port and Brandy, so they’re the real problem. There couldn’t be a clearer example of “Something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done.”

  10. Manga's League

     /  March 19, 2013

    I don’t mean to put down the players but I think we have tended to hype them beyond what they really offer. Of your list Drico and Ferris, for me are the only ones who would have made a World XV at their best….O’Connell and Bowe, maybe. Certainly, we have had a good group of players, capable of doing much better than they have over recent years, but are nowhere near the expectations that have been lumped on the national team. We have become somewhat blinkered with the success of the provinces…it is not equatable.

    • How many of this English side that almost won a Grand Slam would make it into a World XV – I make it zero. It just shows what a decent coaching ticket with appropriate selection and tactics can achieve at the national level.

      To blame our personnel doesn’t stand up to analysis. With the exception of France, it is hard to pick another Northern Hemisphere side with a better squad than us over the past 4 years. Methinks you protest too much.

      • Manga's League

         /  March 19, 2013

        The English side can afford to make appropriate selections because they have 8-10 first flight players to choose from in every position. We have at best 3 and only 1 in may positions. We are a country with only 1 tight head (who cant catch the ball), only 1 number 8 , a handful of second rows, and the smallest (physically) selection of backs in world rugby. We cant compete. We throw out names of our players as world leaders when they really aren’t!

    • Only four players competing for a World XV? That would be over 25% of the world’s best team, then? And you’re saying the players weren’t good enough.

      Provincial success hasn’t made people blinkered, it has made them question the national team management who unflict a gameplan (such as it is, it’s hard to properly define one with Ireland) upon those players totally at odds with what is working for them in the Heineken Cup. It’s a results business, and the results have been poor, but it’s also much more than that. Ireland look a muddle on the pitch, like they don’t know what they’re doing. They’ve no identity, no way of playing that defines them. Whether the provinces have been successful or otherwise, they have always appeared to have areadily identifiable gameplan.

      • Manga's League

         /  March 19, 2013

        4 players over the last 10 years?and only if they were all at their best, which has never co-incided. Our provinces do well because we only have 3 teams to spread the national side over.

    • Red Mist

       /  March 19, 2013

      Ahem, I think you’re missing out on someone there Manga?
      Rog in his day was a world beater, no question about it for a World XV (provided Carter was out of the picture). Typical provincial bias!

      Have a little respect for a true legend.

      • Manga's League

         /  March 19, 2013

        I am from Munster and a big fan of ROG but he was never the best! He was never a Steven Jones let alone a Wilkinson or a Carter.

  11. montigol

     /  March 19, 2013

    Too annoyed to go into any detail – basically, Kidney should’ve been sacked or handed in his notice after the 60-0 defeat. That struck me as bloody obvious. What a waste of a season.

  12. Peat

     /  March 19, 2013

    Just as I was about to consider my belief that the IRFU is an active barrier to Irish success, it is announced that Andrew Trimble has been given a Central Contract. I’m an Ulster fan, and I don’t think that was a good idea. And there’s no way Declan Kidney did either.

    • Amiga500

       /  March 19, 2013

      Really?!?

      Sure thats daft! He’s what… 28? Hasn’t played much in the national team (really) and wouldn’t have been looking that much money anyway.

      Well – it means we’ll have more money to bring Aaron Cruden to Ravenhill now that Gareth Anscombe is playing 10 at the Chiefs eh? 😉

  13. Amiga500

     /  March 19, 2013

    A couple of us in work have been chewing the cud over a great point raised by Cillian Hogan, namely that the talent at AIL level is too diluted to act as a proper feeder level to the provinces. This is leading to many late developers being denied the stepping stone between club and province.

    Its effects are particularly evident in our front row, where, with props being comparatively late developers anyway, if you aren’t in the academy by ~20 years old, your unlikely to ever make it to provincial level (in Ireland at least).

    So we then started debating how to fix this. The easy bits of our solution are:
    – A professional (or very high level semi-professional) league consisting of ~12-16 teams.
    — 3 or 4 teams per province.
    ++++Concentrates player pool to good level
    — League games played on a Wednesday night – set in stone.
    ++++Allows amateur clubs to plan around it, they can training Tues/Thurs, games on Sat, so the players/management can make it along to watch if they want.
    ++++Don’t compete with other sports or other levels of rugby for audience, both live and possibly TV.
    ++++Something good craic to do midweek that doesn’t (necessarily) involve drinking! i.e. go along and watch.
    — Games could even be during the summer.
    ++++(Supposedly) better weather leading to more emphasis on ball skills and making for a better spectacle.

    – AIL disbanded, replaced with provincial leagues only – which should be amateur (or low level semi-professional).
    ++++Being away from Fri night to Sat evening travelling the length of the country for a game is not feasible for most folks with families, many good players are being lost to the game for this reason.
    ++++Club finances are being stretched compensating their players for this travel.

    The more difficult bit is how to draw up the borders of the teams. Should they be existing clubs? Should they be new clubs? Use the county boundaries? Use population centres?

    I know the details aren’t completely fleshed out in this – the subject of how to improve the structures of Irish rugby is probably worth several dedicated articles by the lads here on WoC (and further afield).

    • Leinsterlion

       /  March 19, 2013

      Brilliant idea, but it would be a wrench to see the smaller clubs in Dublin (of which there are many) amalgamated and all of the history and rivalries disappearing, but that is a price worth paying if an ITM level tournament based on provincial conferences was formed.
      Organising this would be a nightmare though, just using Dublin as an example we have 30 clubs, 13 of which are in the AIL.
      You could have a North, South and South Central divide and then have the clubs on the outskirts, Balbriggan, Skerries, Coolmine etc do something, or disband. Amalgamating the Northside would be easy, ‘Tarf,Sutton, Malahide and Swords would all combine. The Southside would be a lot harder, you’d need a South central and South “outer” amalgmation because of the greater distance and playing numbers in clubs.
      So in Dublin alone you would have 3 “super teams” and possibly one more formed out of the outskirt teams. Due to distance constraints, I dont know what you would do with the rest of Leinster, you couldnt form super clubs, and if they werent amalgamated they would get trounced by the Dublin Super clubs.
      The AIL is only getting worse, and must clubs hemorrhage cash. It’s not fit for anything other then socialising and recreational rugby, it would be best if it was nuked for the greater good of Irish rugby, as much as it pains me to say that. It would be a giant leap and require a strong hand from the IRFU, those types of decisions dont get made by committees though.
      Although you mightn’t necessarily have to disband the clubs, they could be feeders to their respective “super club”, how this would happen idk. Something has to be done to bridge the gap between AIL and Rabo so we can broaden the player base.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  March 19, 2013

        Amalgamating clubs would be a nightmare. Existing clubs and their facilities to remain as they are.

        My thought would be a two tier national League.
        Connacht – 3
        Leinster – 6
        Munster – 6
        Ulster – 5
        Top 5 teams in Tier one play-off plus the top team from tier 2 to decide national champion.
        Top of tier two also gains auto-promotion while bottom of tier 1 is relegated.
        2nd and 3rd in tier two play-off against 2nd and 3rd bottom of tier one for one other promo/relegation spot.

        The team that finishes last overall (20th) will be relegated to the provincial league from which they are from. The winner of that provincial league will take the vacant place.

        Hitting a total reset on the club system won’t work as there is too much emotion and valuable history invested in these institutions. A drastic shake up is needed and I believe this is a viable compromise.

      • Amiga500

         /  March 19, 2013

        Hmmmmm.

        We debated promotion/relegation earlier Cillian, and thought it just too unstable to be able to be sure of the budgets. Therefore, we were leaning more toward a franchise league, like the Pro12.

        Furthermore, I would advocate an NFLesque system, all monies are put into one pot, then divvied up equally from that pot to the teams. It means everyone has a competitive team, even if their population centre isn’t necessarily the largest. The aim of the competition isn’t only about players winning, its about nuturing and developing talent in a more competitive environment – so I feel an artificial balance is justified.

        We were also of the opinion that it needs to be less than 16 teams. Thats already 30 matches. Ideally, it would be no more than 14 teams. The problem is on what way to form the teams – use an existing club? Would the support of other neighbouring clubs turn out to watch them in a “IrishTM cup”? Make new teams? Where does the support base come from then? Would it be like the regional disaster in Wales?

        Teams could be sourced from:
        – Derry
        – Belfast
        – Dungannon
        – North Dublin
        – South Dublin
        – Galway
        – Athlone
        – Limerick
        – Cork

        Geographically, teams in Sligo, Portlaoise and Waterford would complete the mix – but none are strongholds of the game.

        More likely would be Drogheda or Dundalk…

        I’m sure many people would be raging at my division – for instance Ballynahinch aren’t on the list, despite being probably the strongest club in Ulster right now. But its a division along kinda geographic lines.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  March 19, 2013

        There just isn’t the money to set up so many franchises and it totally ignores what we have already. Where do they play? What happens the old grounds of clubs? what colours do they wear? Do we have poorer grass roots facilities as a result now that we are chasing supporters instead of players? If the rugby is good the people should come, not the other way.

        You could take one off the quota from each to get to 16 teams. Then you can eliminate the two tiers. But in order for it to be agreed on I can only see it happening if there is the possibility of the bottom side at the end of the year having to drop down to play provincial league while one gets to join the higher ranks.

      • Amiga500

         /  March 19, 2013

        I know – all valid questions. None have completely satisfactory answers.

        I was of the idea that if the current clubs (amateur/semi-pro) were playing provincial leagues only, it would be better for the players as they wouldn’t have to give up essentially their entire weekend (and a not insubstantial travel cost for club/player) for an away game on the far side of the country.

        Also, if the “IrishTM” matches were set in stone for Wed night, that leaves the Tues & Thurs free for club training and the Sat for games. So they can go along and watch if they want. Its a better balance for the competitive yet far from professional player. The more professional player is likely to be in the “IrishTM” squads anyway.

        Just to be clear – I am not advocating getting rid of any clubs – just completely reforming the competition they’d be playing in.

        But, I do have to admit, I cannot see how you could have the budget stability and also have promotion/relegation. The ITM itself doesn’t have promotion/relegation does it? To me, that approach would be a half measure that would eventually drag the “IrishTM” back down toward another glorified AIL division.

      • Amiga500

         /  March 19, 2013

        WoC – does this blog setup thingy let you do polls?

        Might be worth presenting a few options and seeing what the various cordites think.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  March 20, 2013

        While you aren’t getting rid of the clubs, the steps you propose would push them even further away decreasing the standard of rugby in them.

        I do like the Wednesday game idea. You could have it that the derby games are played on Wednesday and the others are at the weekend. The clubs would be openly semi pro with a minimum match fee for players and squads would be boosted by provincial and academy players with possibly a minimum of 3 and max of 8 on the field at once. The key is to play these games when they won’t clash with Ireland and the 4PP.

        Changes in 2011 ITM Cup see the 14 teams split into two divisions, with the top seven playing in the Premiership, with the rest in the Championship. The two divisions play each other, though their 10 game round-robin season sees each team playing only 3 games per year against teams in the ‘other’ division. Other key principles introduced was that the competitions must:
        Include Super Rugby players;
        Have a stand-alone window;
        Feature a full round-robin and playoffs;
        Have promotion-relegation;
        Guarantee four and five home games per team;

        The big issue is NZ have many provinces and they make up the ITM (National Provincial Championship) teams. So all clubs in the province support their provinces as feeders. Now our clubs “feed” the provinces but there is no super franchises above that. Imposing a structure (Wales) doesn’t work.

  14. Rich

     /  March 19, 2013

    Spot on woc although I fear that our decision makers may have other ideas. Budgets will certainly come into it. Jake White turned down the England job, chance to live it up in London and be the highest paid coach in the world of a young exciting group of players. Why does anyone think he ll come near us??? Working under a bunch of old hacks who are only there cos their wives want them out of the house??

    Scotland got professionalism badly wrong and paid for it for years. Now we are in danger of slipping as we have no one qualified to make a professional decision on a coach. They have addressed their issues, brought in dean Ryan to tighten up their pack and changed the entire backline, given youngsters a chance and a couple of buy ins on the wings. They beat us – no matter what stats we throw about – they won 12-10. So are now better. We have to change our whole regime from the top down but I fear the guys there will retain kidney and maybe promote foley – and the nightmare will continue….

  15. Chris

     /  March 20, 2013

    According to the press here in ‘Straya McKenzie is pretty much nailed on, Fox Sports had the following to say;

    “. . . with informed sources saying McKenzie is not only the no.1 choice of the Irish Rugby Union to replace Declan Kidney, but that a deal is already on the table for the Queensland coach.”

    What names are being banded about in the Irish and UK press/chatter?

  16. Something we neglected to mention in the post was this: defeats to what used to be called non-Test nations tend to jolt the IRFU into action. They see no disgrace is losing to their chums from Heriots and Embra Academy for example, but losing to nouveau riche semi-pros from Parma or Buenoes Aires – the horror!

    After 1997, central contracts sprung up, the defeat in Lens was a massive wake-up call for them, and even losing to a most excellent Puma side in 2007 pre-faced Deccie getting a huge coaching staff – Eddie’s one man band was out.

    The hope is that this defeat to Italy will have a similar effect in the musty cigar smoke-filled rooms of Lansdowne Road.

  17. Scrumdog

     /  March 22, 2013

    Good article, and along with Liam Toland’s in today’s Irish Times, the crisis in Irish rugby is covered well. Professionals need to be brought in to run the rugby end of the business at Lansdowne Rd. and implement changes to the current system which are overdue.

    People like Kidney and O’Sullivan should be hired as consultants when their input might be needed and not cast adrift. As they say in NZ, their recent former coaching staff is the ‘intellectual property’ of NZ rugby.

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