Overheard Conversations

Interprovincial Rivalry

In recent years, the growth of the provinces as entities independent of the national team has given rise to an intense rivalry, which borders on the farcical at times, and in the past certainly hasn’t helped build a good atmosphere around Team Ireland. But the banter at Ireland matches still has the possiblity to illustrate a healthy rivalry that doesn’t descend into the usual my-6.5-is-better-than-yours bickering.

Case in point: Egg was getting the DORSH to the game, when at Tara Street, some Ulster fans got on, a few beers on board, but not hammered, having fun if you will. The following exchange happened:

Ulster fan with thick Belfast accent: Any Leinster fans on the train?

Carriage (muted): Way-hay!

Ulster fan with thick Belfast accent: Any Munster fans on the train?

Carriage (less muted and slightly louder): Way-hay!

*laughter ensues as it appears Leinster fans are outnumbered*

*two seconds silence*

Ulster fan with thick Belfast accent: Youse are fuckin’ shite

*uproarious laughter from all*

Ulster fan with thick Belfast accent: And youse can have Robbie Diack if you want – he’s fuckin’ shite as well

Brilliant stuff.

Ill Communication

A commenter recently raised the issue that the Irish players don’t appear to talk to each other that much when on the pitch, raising the question as to how the team can execute a game plan without sufficient communication between each other.  It’s an interesting point.  Another result of apparent ill-communication is James Hook’s unfulfilled career path.  The Welshman is blessed with footballing talent, but by all accounts just doesn’t talk and boss his team around enough to control tough matches from fly-half.

In a recent conversation, a collaeague of WoC’s said he had been talking to a Kiwi who coaches at regional level.  Our colleague asked him what it was that differentiated the Kiwis from the other rugby nations.  His answer wasn’t their feral breakdown work, natural fitness or handling skills developed from playing the game as soon as they can run.  It was their communication.  Every Kiwi is coached to talk continually to the guy next to him.  The result is that the Kiwis invariably make good decisions in clutch situations.

Although derided as a nation with a history of choking, the Kiwis in fact have a habit of getting out of sticky spots.  How many times have Ireland brought them to the wire only for the BNZers to come up with a spirit-crushing score late in the game?  Saturday’s match against England was a case in point.  Their favourite referee Craig Joubert was whistling them off the park and their 14-point lead had been turned briefly into a deficit, but when the heat was on the Kiwis had the goods to score the winning points.

You’re Banned From This Historical Society.  You, Your Children and Your Children’s Children.  For Three Months.

Qantas have looked to come down hard on indiscipline under the new regime, but there’s something about yesterday’s news that they have suspended six of their players for the upcoming match against Scotland that looks like a fudge.  One can imagine Ewan McKenzie’s thinking:

‘Strewth!  The Badger and fourteen other galahs have only gone out and drunk twelve pints of Fosters in Copper Face Jacks three nights before the game.  They can’t get away with this.  I’ve gotta show them I’m tough on discipline.  Trouble is, I need the blaahdy dingbats to beat Ireland this Saturday.  Badger looks hungry for meat in training this week.  Maybe I can still look tough on discipline if I ‘suspend’ them for the flamin’ Scotland game instead, when I was going to rotate my team anyway.  Ewan, you bloody genius.  Nobody will notice a thing.’

Somewhere in Reading, an exiled bombshell is buried under a pile of Samoans with his face in the mud, thinking dark thoughts.

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  1. Mike

     /  November 19, 2013

    Good communication wouldn’t have stopped the front 5 getting their heads shoved up their arses…

  2. Johnny B Goode

     /  November 19, 2013

    Stick to the digs at players, coaches and journos, lads. Humour clearly isn’t your thing, Mckenzie stuff is excruciating

  3. Excellent Simpsons quote, excellent stuff. I’d have to agree with Mike though: what happened with the forwards this weekend was terrifying, and if that continues, there are very few other issues that can be fixed. I suppose it’s not a pattern, since Ireland dealt with Samoa’s physicality very well, but still…

  4. Johnny B Goode

     /  November 19, 2013

    So, lets get this straight, you are allowed to take swipes at whoever you want but you only allow through comments that are complimentary? That’s fair

    • Yeah, that’s it, which is why there’s never anyone in the comment box who disagrees with us, right? Jeesh.

      Relax there fella, easy on the hissy fit. All first time commenters require approval. We don’t always get around to it instantly so your worthwhile ‘contribution’ was a little delayed in going up. Worth the wait though, I’m sure everyone will agree, really adds to the ongoing debate about international rugby.

      • ehhweasel

         /  November 19, 2013

        Accusing WoC of censorship? Get out of it man. They even went through the courtesy of posting an explanation about it when they had to introduce measures to cut down on the nonsensical abuse from trolls. Your input earlier is borderline anyway.

    • L.P.O.

       /  November 20, 2013

      That’s a bit much. Personally, I think the humorous are… well, hilarious, and so would most people reading this content. Probably helps to have a sense of same… If you don’t like it, don’t read it, and spend time to sign up your details and then grind your teeth impatiently just to wait for your moany comment to appear.

      And censorship? Pretty wild accusation against WOC, and we wouldn’t want to miss your insight, so I think you must have been mistaken. I’ve never ever had any comment censored, but then again, I’ve never seen fit to complain. Though, now I think of it, I did notice one glaring error in that article you lads wr[…]

  5. Green and Gold did a good breakdown of the Aussie scrum problems during the summer, in particular singling out the foot positioning of the TH prop as preventing any sort of drive. I noticed that the sub prop for Samoa took up the same position (feet basically under the second row’s chin/chest, legs almost straight at point of engaging) after which point we went from parity to Irish superiority in the scrum for the rest of the game.

    Ross was doing pretty much the exact same thing Saturday. Its not something he would be known for but it means that there’s barely possible to create any drive and any backwards motion from the opposition LH will see the TH collapse/fall to the ground, get a face full of grass and usually give up a penalty as the LH will no be on top of them.

    The question is; is there any chance this was some sort of tactical ploy based on somehow milking a weak Aus scrum that backfired hugely? (I want to believe our scrum hasn’t gotten that much worse in six months or so) Or is there a greater systematic problem? I know people have pointed out Plumtree’s comments about the front row, but Ross is known as a technician and has personally pointed out his love of the finer points of the scrum, so I can’t imagine it happened by accident. There’s also the more remote possibility that it was an attempt to protect an injury of some sort, perhaps a hamstring.

    • The law change in the scrum seems to be having all sorts of funny results. Guys who couldn’t stand up in a scrum are looking good, and some previously dominant enormous beast type props – I’m thinking Ross and Adam Jones specifically – are looking ill at ease.

      Or it could just be that Father Time is knocking for Ross, as it is for a few others on the Ireland team.

      • @salmonconnacht Yeah, the new scrum law have thrown the ‘understood hierarchy’ of scrummaging on their head. We said it before, but it’s basically a case of ‘Everything you know is wrong.”

        As for Rosser, I think it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. I think he’s been on a little bit of a slide since 2011 when he was at his peak, but the new laws seem to have accelerated things.

        @B thanks for the technicals on the scrummage. We’re in no position to go into this sort of thing ourselves, so we appreciate those who have an understanding of the nuances of it taking the time to add it to the comment box.

        • Lol thanks but I’m only repeating others observations I could never claim an actual understanding of the nuances, just noting what I saw Saturday.

      • Rava

         /  November 19, 2013

        Maybe the value of the hooker to Ross in the past couple of seasons is clearer now that they aren’t able to contribute to the shove.

      • Sparking

         /  November 19, 2013

        Admit it, you’re thinking of Rodney Ah You!

  6. Leinsterlion

     /  November 19, 2013

    Maybe its not a case of law changes etc, outside of him carrying an injury, he could simply be finished. Happens to players all the time, effective one season, performances drop off a cliff the next. See Rodney Soialolo, Jerry Collins, Elsom.

    A bigger problem than lack of talk imo, would be our lack of physicality across the park, we have no players with lightening speed and physicality in our backline. We have guys with physicality McFadden,Marshall but not with both. Same with our pack. Strauss-SOB-Healy aside we dont have any monsters that other nations can field if they so choose. This is the same at underage level. Instead of trying to implement a talking strategy at underage level why not bring in a bunch of Eastern European weightlifting coaches and implement a power and explosiveness strategy, you can learn to talk, but what good is that if you have the turning circle of the Yamato?

    • So you reckon we should start with picking 15 sprinters/beasts/both and then see if Joe can bate some sense into them? What would your 6 nations team look like? Henshaw, Bowe, BOD, Marshall, Trimble, Sexton, Murray; Healy, Cronin, Moore, POC, Touhy, SOB, O’Donnell, Heaslip; Best, McGrath, Ah You, Henderson, POM, Marmion, Madigan, Earls?

    • I admire the consistency of your message LL but our lack of physicality at the weekend was in the head. From the first minute when Slipper drilled Reddan after an early ruck, tripping O’Connell in the process to Toomua lining up O’Mahony under the sticks to nullifying Sean O’Brien with good tackling technique the Aussies were sharper and wanted to impose themselves on Ireland.
      I completely disagree with you on the value of talking. I’d rather have a team of ball players with heart than a bunch of Billy Benchpresses. Physical preparation is a necessity so don’t get me wrong on that but the mental side wins every time. I was struck by that in McCaw’s book but I’ve believed it for ages.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 19, 2013

        Im not downplaying the importance of talking(well, not by much) I’d just rate agility/speed and physicality as importantly. If you dont implement a strong weightlifting ethic from a young age you get the problem Ireland have currently, with players being in their mid/early 20’s before they start to break through because they have a much younger training age than their counterparts overseas.
        If you look at the Saffas or better yet US high school football, they have teenagers with the physical maturity of Irish 20 year olds. I’m not downplaying skill etc, merely saying that in Pro Sports being a physical beast in addition to being skilled is a pre- requisite, look at the NFL, they are all top level athletes in contrast to rugby which is not at that level yet.

        As for the weekend, it wsnt merely “physicality”, it was the absence of speed too, we were slower all over the pitch. Mentally we lacked guile and SOB’s fruitless boshfest was evidence of that. I’m not calling for a team of SOB’s, but more athleticism in addition to intelligent skilled rugby.

        • Re physical preparation, I’m interested what impact popularisation of CrossFit etc will have on this cohort of teens. Deffo proper training is essential but a lot of those guys start out as beasts!
          Re physicality, I think of this as dog, mongrel etc. but also as a mental sharpness and willingness to “beat him to the punch” to quote Bill Walsh. Fergus McFadden gets bounced by George North because North is a beast but he bounces back because he has “dog”. http://dementedmole.com/2012/06/22/porternpotatoes/
          Ferg does not choose the angles that Bowe does or have the same ability to distribute.
          Tommy Bowe lets Cummins run right over him (I thought it was a try) in exactly the same way that Jacques Fourie did in the second test in 2009. Bowe is one of our best footballers and probably our best ball carrier.
          My preference is for Ferg because I’d rather dog than finesse. Striking the balance between thinking and talking of skill in terms of “keepy uppies” rather than functional execution under pressure is difficult.
          We’ve hired in a lot of overseas coaches for the professional game, we don’t have a national philosophy about how the game should be played that suits us and forms the basis of discussion and coaching at lower levels from minis up.
          I’m convinced that when Schmidt talks about “accuracy” it seems dry to a lot of players who still require a more emotional approach. That will hopefully develop as he is there longer but doesn’t get away from the fact that we need to develop an Irish style of play and thinking about the game.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 20, 2013

            Bah dont mention Crossit!! Its the POM of the fitness world, all hype!!
            As for guys “starting out as beasts”, I would beg to differ, google Adam Archuleta or Joe DeFranco, top end speed cant be improved (once genetic limit is reached) without the aid of pharmaceuticals granted, but everything else, strength, agility and explosiveness can. I’d argue we need to get real about underage rugby and get these guys in the gym ASAP with serious nutrition, supplementation and weight training, when you have national newspapers writing scare stories about creatine on a yearly basis (with tacit approval from the IRFU) you know there is not a national “physical readiness strategy” in place, and the reasons for are lack of phyical development become clear.

            But yes I’d be broadly in agreement with most of your points, the “dog” always reminds me of a speech Stan Wrights gave my team before a match, about the “mongrel dog”, not the biggest etc, but all about attitude was the gist of it.

        • Good stuff! Jay Schroeder, we hardly knew ya!

  7. Seanachan

     /  November 19, 2013

    The scrum issue is interesting and indeed, it seems to have thrown the accepted hierachies on their head. As a former prop myself (and to be clear, I am not claiming expertise here), I think the new laws are a godsend for squatter, less physically imposing props but perhaps more technical operators. As an illustration, and I am not claiming any original insights here, in the New Zealand and England game, just after half time, it was noticeable (via the ref cam) that when a scrum was called, the English front row was crouched in the set position and ready to engage at least six seconds before New Zealand, while the New Zealand front row looked casual in comparison- it seemed to me that Owen Franks was simply relying on his greater bulk to overpower Joe Marler. He was still binding with Mealamu when Marler was in the set position, by the time he had bound on Marler and engaged his back was not straight, with his head above hip level- the end result being after the engage, England got a fairly impressive drive on, with Franks getting substituted immediately afterwards.


  8. Yossarian

     /  November 19, 2013

    The physicality thing is part of the problem but not the whole issue(see a great demented mole Article on the welsh backs)a good big one beats a good small one! Trimble has the size but he is off the pace skill/thought wise therefore it doesn’t count for much.
    My girlfriend describes North as something out of “avatar” absolute physical specimen (with skill) Folau in the same bracket. If they have the ability fantastic, if not I’d keep taking my Darcy and BOD’s, skill more important are you end up with a midfield like England. praying the two Tom’s at leinster deliver(Farrell and Daly), have the physique if they have the skills fantastic.

    • hulkinator

       /  November 20, 2013

      Farrell and Daly do have the skills. Tom Farrell in particular looks like BODs successor for Leinster and Ireland.

  9. Hey Rocko!

     /  November 24, 2013

    Regarding the debate about getting Irish players to do weights from an early age, I read a great article in the times which said that basically we don’t have the build for it. Citing Ferris as the main culprit for being too much of a damn beast that his poor lilttle skelton couldn’t cope with it. The only way around it I can see getting some pacific Islanders in and….well… make them have kids.
    Some game today by the by. I’m still crying.

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