That Sinking Feeling

Irish fans have been left with a familiar feeling, as their team has once again bowed out before the semi-finals of a World Cup.  It was a heartbreaking, spirit-sapping defeat, one that leaves as many questions as answers.  Just why were Ireland so passive in defending the advantage line?  Might Ireland have pushed on had we drawn level with a late penalty, or had the Argentinians been reduced to 14 men for the last 20 minutes?  And might everything have been different if we had something more closely resembling a fully fit line-up to choose from?

We’ll never know, but chances are with our best team on the pitch the scoreline might have been closer, but Argentina’s ability to change the point of attack with ambition and accuracy would likely have caused too much trouble in any case.  They are a better footballing team than Ireland, and proved here that rugby really is a simple game.  For all the changes the game has seen in the last 20 years, the combination of fast ruck ball and accurate passing will go a long way towards winning rugby matches.

What frustrates more than anything though, is that this team has continued the long-standing trend of Irish team’s failing to arrive at the emotional intensity required for a world cup quarter-final.  Ireland have shown up and given their best for precisely one such game: the 1991 Gordon Hamilton match.  In 1995 we were trounced by France, and same again in 2003 when the team had put huge energy reserves into two very hard pool games.  In 2011, the team was out-thought and out-muscled by Wales, and here we were simply outplayed by an at times rampant Argentina.  Joe Schmidt is highly regarded for his ability to prepare teams for tournament rugby matches, but the feral aggression levels appeared to be stuck on the sidelines with O’Connell, O’Mahony and O’Brien.

Schmidt will be thorough in dissecting the defeat, but he’ll also question his own decisions at length too.  Jordi Murphy looked a curious pick at 6, and despite a couple of big plays, he was mostly on the fringes of the game.  Donnacha Ryan at 4 and Henderson at 6 would surely have brought a bit more aggression and presence to the breakdown – yet the pair never saw the pitch together, and Ryan only came in when the game was lost.  Meanwhile, the decision to start Cian Healy also has to be questioned.  Healy ‘forced’ his way into the team after a non-impacting appearance off the bench against Romania.  His pre-tournament injury has simply not allowed him to get any sort of form going, and there are shades of trying to play someone into form in a global tournament here; such strategies have a high chance of failure.  Jack McGrath was a huge step up in energy and impact when he came on.

At outhalf, Madigan went into the tournament as our designated finisher, a role he performed with aplomb against France, with Wee Jacko as Sexton’s backup (Keatley’s role in the Six Nations). However, in time, the waters got muddied and Madigan assumed both roles. So when Sexton was confirmed as down, Madigan was the natural replacement – but it didn’t quite work out, in attack or defence. Will Schmidt regret changing his planning? The lack of depth at centre also came back to bite – we picked only 3 specialists in our squad – Payne, Henshaw and Cave. After Jared Payne got injured, Earls stepped in and had a pretty good tournament in the group stages, but as the only player to start all games, he looked completely bushed by the time of the Argentina game, and the defensive solidity of Payne was sorely missed. Schmidt must be asking himself 2 things – why was Cave brought at all, and would there have been value in considering McCloskey or Luke Marshall in the summer camps?

And as for the Comical Ali injury updates (O’Mahony was walking around the changing rooms .. Payne has a bruised foot .. Sexton has been training fully), one sympathises with Schmidt – its not his job to fully brief the opposition – but the tone of briefings changed markedly from the open discussions from previous squad announcements and Six Nations. We can understand what they were trying to do (or not to do) but what was that about?

In the aftermath, much of the focus has been on the northern-southern hemisphere divide, and rightly so.  The gulf is somewhat cavernous, and at times the European sides appear to be playing a different game.  We can’t help but cast our minds back to some of the pieces we wrote about the State Of The Game around the time of the Six Nations.  Looking back, perhaps we were really  writing about the State Of The Northern Hemisphere, and just needed to watch more southern hemisphere football.  This world cup has, so far, been the greatest I can recall, vastly superior to 2007 and 2011 in any case.  It’s largely down to the brilliance of the Southern Hemisphere nations, as well as Japan.  The supposed tightening up and reduction of gameplans to kick ‘n’ bosh so beloved of Irish commentators, who have ascribed it the title ‘cup rugby’, has thus far failed to materialise.  New Zealand and Argentina refused to be dragged into trench warfare; why bother when you can use your superior skill to amass 100 points between you?  Is that not cup rugby?  And Michael Cheika spoke of his desire to keep playing the Australian way, even if it meant shooting themselves in the foot umpteen times. The two semi-finals are mouth-watering, and, sad as it is, the Northern Hemisphere sides (with the exception of the mighty Welsh) won’t be missed.

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110 Comments

  1. New Zealand and Argentina put up 100pts between them in the quarters of the World Cup. when you put it like that its just WOW – a different game.

  2. curates_egg

     /  October 21, 2015

    Anyone who had actually watched Argentina over the past 6 months and did a comparison of the respective XVs would have known that they simply had better players (particularly out wide). When 5 of our XV were lost, it is also logical that Argentina (down 1 definite starter) also had a better matchday squad.

    Our hope was based on our collective belief in our coach but, in reality, we needed our players to play beyond themselves and for our systems to work. I am not sure many people really acknowledged that.

    On the former, I think a few of our players did (Best was outstanding, Heaslip and Murphy put in good shifts, Fitzgerald’s performance made you wonder why he was not in the XV) but far too many underperformed. Murray and Madigan just didn’t work. It was a bridge too far for Madigan and Murray had a very bad day both with his kicking and his decision-making (so often choosing the wrong side or option). It really underlined how damagingly-dependent our performance is on Sexton. But so many players just didn’t play to their potential, so you can’t blame the halfbacks (unless you’re George Hook).

    On the systems, we had a total defensive breakdown. Unfortunately, it was not a surprise, as it was very reminiscent of the Italy performance. Our D was a total shambles again. You questioned Schmidt’s selection of Healy (fair enough) and Murphy (rewatch the match) but you don’t question the selection of Earls at 13, who played a central role in this malfunction. Why not? The Italy game should have set alarm bells ringing but it seems nothing was done.

    Earls is a fantastically talented player who was clearly on form and should have been a nailed on starter at 11 for us (and had a strategy developed around him). Time and again, he has shown he is not a great defender at 13 and cannot lead a defence. Outside him, Dave Kearney (selected at 11, as opposed to 14) missed 5 tackles: partly down to the mess of a D and partly down to him being out of position. Hindsight is 20:20 but you do have to wonder if the D would have been so bad with Earls in his best position (left wing) and Fitzgerald at 13 (not his best position but he is a better defender than Earls). Schmidt bet the house on Payne to lead the defence (and he was excellent at it): why did he then replace him with a totally different type of player?

    It is so deflating, as it really seemed like our best chance ever to actually achieve something in the only competition that counts. I hope, in 4 years time, I won’t fall into the trap of getting my hopes up again.

    • Billy

       /  October 21, 2015

      Earls to blame? Very wide of the mark. You’re looking in the wrong place.

      • curates_egg

         /  October 21, 2015

        You get the prize for being the first Munster fan to misunderstand the point I was making. Congrats. Try reading again and not automatically getting into defensive mode because you read the name of your province’s player.

        Firstly, my point is that Argentina are better, so we needed to be at our best, which we weren’t. Secondly my point is that our defensive malfunction (the second in the tournament) was, at least partially, down to a misuse of the personnel available.

        Earls is one of our best backs but he cannot defend at 13. Why waste him there and further undermine our defensive system in doing so?

        • Kelly

           /  October 21, 2015

          I agree in principle but I think that rather than laying the blame on Earls as an individual the fault defensively must lie with the planning and the systems. Payne is designated as the defensive leader and losing him is a massive lose. I wonder had Earls done much work in the lead up to the World Cup as our defensive captain. He’s spent much of Irish career on the wing and by the looks of things that’s where Joe envisaged him playing. It’s a very different proposition between defending as a winger and defending as a 13.

          • This is precisely wrong toro toro.
            1st try- heaslip doesn’t come up with henshaw, who did a good job of putting some pressure on. If earls shoots here he has sold the farm. Heaslip’s man is lobbe, who has time to pause and fling an accurate (flat at best) pass off his weak side, to the outside of earls. It’s still a manageable enough attack but Kearney gets burned on the outside of that again. You might argue perhaps earls should be talking to heaslip and telling him to get himself up along with henshaw. People can decide for themselves if that’s a fair argument. I always preferred earls as a 15, but I think in this instance the flack you and a few other places I’ve seen are giving him is a crock of shit. This is not intended as a broadside at heaslip who played well and whose tackle on (I think) matera helped to arrest some of the momentum Argentina had at that point and get us a foothold in the game.

            Try 2 is other personnel completely, but it’s a similar enough sequence. You might think then its a tactical mistake going on here might you not? No, apparently you are going to use it to beat up on earls. It couldn’t go on forever that Schmidt would get every little thing right. Not having the linespeed right was a rare mistake and one which hurt us badly. I thought after the Italy game, where Bowe was the one who struggled in similar scenarios we would have been far faster out of the traps. We were the opposite of that.

            Try 3, possibly an earls mistake. He has stayed a bit too narrow for me and Kearney has therefore been tempted in field. That said, the guy who Kearney tried to tackle was covered by earls. Maybe earls should be more animated, o’driscoll used to sometimes point and then lasso his man, but inside and outside of the 13 men have got to make these reads themselves too. Kearney seems to think they are attacking earls’ space. They aren’t, they are attacking his and having been beaten outside once already it’s a bad error to let it happen again. That said, Kearney – like Bowe against Italy – is in a high stress situation on the back of a tactical error. I can’t see it being a mistake we make so badly again.

            Try 4 is different personnel again and I’d discount it anyway, we are gone at that stage.

            As Kelly, and billy and to some degree curates have suggested its a systems mistake. It has to be – they all did it. Whilst I want to see him played as an attacking 15, earls has played well at 13 and this defeat is not his ‘fault,’ no more or less than anyone else.

            Offensively I’m not sure we ever got to see the plan. We got hammered at contact/breakdown early on and their start spooked us – we were chasing early. I personally thought it was amazing that the team managed to somehow stop the Argentina momentum at that stage (Fitzgersld was electric) and fight their way back to where there was a shot at winning it. Don’t forget Bowe went off early, Kearney dislocated his finger and madigan shipped some dubiously late and no arm tackle shots. The disruption was probably all up worse than Italy 2013. But the effort required left us running on empty and desperate.

            Give dues to Argentina too. Not many teams have made us look like that over this past few years and they were good enough to ride out the storm and then pick us off late on too. They are a bloody good team.

          • toro toro

             /  October 22, 2015

            Tries 1 and 2 are the same regardless of personnel; you’re correct. And that’s because the same failing is happening. The common element is Earls, who is not pushing out and filling the space as he’s supposed to, and nor is he communicating with the man outside to let him know he can stay out and not get burned on the inside.

            That’s his job, and it’s not executed properly.

            Try three; again, if Kearney has the wrong read here, much of that comes down to the guy coordinating the defense,

            Try four you could say much the same; again, the common element in the personnel is Earls. Dismissing it as inconvenient to your argument is a bit flimsy.

            That’s just the tries; one of my points was that we were haemorrhaging territory every time they went wide even when tackles weren’t missed.

            It’s a systems failure insofar as the system depends on the 13 doing a particular job, which Keith Earls consistently failed to do on Sunday.

        • Billy

           /  October 21, 2015

          Well, I’m not a Munster fan for one. Not a massive fan of him at 13 either but blaming poor defence on him and Kearney just shows a lack of understanding. Why do you think he can’t defend at 13? Because the tries were scored out wide and the 13 stands beside the winger off first phase?

          • curates_egg

             /  October 21, 2015

            But I am explicitly not blaming the individuals and that is where you seem to be misunderstanding my point. Rightly or wrongly, we have built our defensive system around 13 leading the line and ensuring the shape and speed of the D. When BOD retired, it was decided Payne would fill that role and he did it well. You can’t just drop Earls into that role and expect it to work. Our shape and line speed and the effectiveness of the system was poor against both Italy and Argentina. It was rudderless. That is not Earls fault.

            What I don’t understand is why we took our best performing wing and played him out of position in such a crucial role. Then compounded the disjointment by playing Kearney on the left wing. Nobody looked comfortable in their role and nobody looked to be leading the defence. If Earls was our best left wing, pick him there. Play Fitz (also not ideal but defensively sound) at 13 and minimise the disruption.

          • toro toro

             /  October 21, 2015

            Why isn’t it Earls’ fault? It was pretty plain to everyone sat near me that he wasn’t communicating, wasn’t managing the space, and that as a result Argentina were making 20 or 30 yeards every time the ball went past Hernandez, even when everyone made their tackles.

            I mean, I guess you can say it’s not his fault in the sense that he shouldn’t have been picked there since he can’t do that job. But by the same token, the reason he shouldn’t have been picked there was that he’s not able to do it, as he showed.

          • curates_egg

             /  October 22, 2015

            It’s not his fault he was selected out of position. It was a bad selection, compounded by putting Kearney on the left wing.

          • Yossarian

             /  October 22, 2015

            This explains why Earls probably didn’t help Kearney out on the wing.

            http://www.the42.ie/ireland-defence-argentina-analysis-rwc-15-2398472-Oct2015/

          • curates_egg

             /  October 22, 2015

            I had read it already and it indeed confirms that our system was hampered by indecisiveness and poor communication. The first try wasn’t great but the third was horrible defensively. In my original comment, I stated my belief that Argentina were better than us, man for man, and that for us to win we needed our players to perform to their limits and for our systems to work…but our system seems to have been busted before kick off.

          • Toro toro, we could have a decent discussion/argument about the rights and wrongs of tries 1 and 3. It might even be cathartic instead of this rushing to the fault stuff. But if in that rush to blame earls you are including tries 2 and 4, well I suggest you watch them back again. Maybe you are just having a laugh with me, I dunno, I’m so pissed off about the game I could easily be tricked.

            Ps I apologise about the jumpy sequence of these posts-for some reason this device won’t let me reply where I’m trying to.

          • toro toro

             /  October 23, 2015

            I’m not “rushing to fault”; I saw the fault with my own eyes, and had it confirmed by watching the video back.

            Believe me, it isn’t the slightest bit funny.

  3. D6W

     /  October 21, 2015

    “The combination of fast ruck ball and accurate passing will go a long way towards winning rugby matches.”

    It is strange the way Schmidt seemed to reject this strategy which brought him so much success at club level. I hope he has a rethink for the 6N. It has been said that the reason for this is that he does not have the time to work with the players at international level in order to build the ability for this gameplan. Maybe it is time to take a leaf out of AB book, and coordinate the training across all the provinces, so Schmidt can work with the players by proxy at least, so to speak. Something Nucifora should already have been doing.

    • flypanam

       /  October 21, 2015

      I like that idea, and maybe resurrect the national academy for younger players. Skills coaches for underage groups etc. I’d also like to see us play more three game tests against the SH. Probably mean shelving the Autumn internationals as they stand now and having SH tour and play three proper tests then we can get a much better sense of where we are rather than making an assumption based on a one off game.

      • SportingBench

         /  October 21, 2015

        The problem with national academies is that they tend to devlop one single approach and that isn’t good in the long run. Many ways to skin a cat and horses for courses and all that.

        • Agreed, no need for a national academy. 4 of the 5 existing academies are directly funded by the IRFU and run under their aegis anyway, and as far I know the second Leinster one is just a doubling up of numbers and ran by the same people as their union funded one.

        • D6W

           /  October 21, 2015

          Ditto. We already have the academies, we simply have to make sure that the way our young players are being coached are all coordinated. And not just our young players, but our senior teams.

          • Lop12

             /  October 21, 2015

            I’d love to see a comparison with how many (adult grade) matches our academy players play vs equivalents in NZ/SA/OZ. Our lads don’t play half enough rugby. BandI cup focus of season for many and that’s not much of a competition is it

          • Can’t speak for the other provinces but the Connacht academy will backbone the B&I Cup campaign (6 games), the A interprovincial friendlies (4-6 games) and line up for their AIL clubs most weekends. On top of that 4 academy players have featured in our first 4 Pro12 games.

  4. Tommy Kennedy

     /  October 21, 2015

    Maybe Irish fans will know start to appreciate their best players ie Sexton, BOD, POC, POM etc etc. During the warm up games people were talking about all this depth we had but in reality we don’t have it The likes of Best, POC, POM, SOB, JH, CM, Sexton were light years ahead of their back ups and injuries to any of them would always be a disaster.

    Our reliance on these players can’t be overstated.

    We had a very weak side playing v the Argies. The likes of Devin Toner, Dave Kearney, Mike Ross, Chris Henry, Jordi Murphy, Ian Madigan, Keith Earls @ 13 wouldn’t be near any of the last fours first 15 in my opinion. Schdimt should be complemented on the fact he managed to win two six nations using these players over the last two years but when it comes down to the biggest games we need our best 15 on the pitch.

    *Injuries are not bad look*

    When you play like we did v France you are going to get 3 or 4 serious injuries. Test rugby is a blood bath.

    Schidmt’s two biggest selection calls were not starting Luke Fitz and starting Cian Healy. Donnacha Ryan was unlucky but has Henderson played any minutes ever for Ireland at 6?

    • curates_egg

       /  October 21, 2015

      Ha. I think you say essentially the same as me in a much less long-winded way. I need to practise that 😉

    • Kevin

       /  October 21, 2015

      Yes I think he started at 6 during the Italy match during our 2014 campaign. Baffling selection to me. Ruddock would have also been a better option than Jordi (hardly a Heineken cup level 6) but in fairness he is only back from a good few months out.

      • curates_egg

         /  October 21, 2015

        I thought Murphy did fine (he tried to mirror POM’s role both in the lineout and in the loose and did so in a way Henderson couldn’t have) and don’t think selecting Henderson at 6 would have made any substantial difference. Starting Ryan might have made sense and Henderson, so far, seems to have a greater influence from bench. Starting him as tighthead row seemed to totally diminish what he usually brings to a game. Was the solution to start him at 6? I’m not sure.

        • For myself I thought Murphy was absolutely blown away at the ruck in the first quarter (Henry was also ineffective though in fairness it looks like Argentina singled him out for treatment as opposed to him just not being at the races). As to the lineout he did fine but Argentina pretty much nullified our lineout by the simple expedient of not kicking to touch.

          • curates_egg

             /  October 21, 2015

            He definitely took a while to find his way into the ruck but, once he did, he was ok. Would Henderson have been any different though? That’s not really what Henderson brings.

            What Henderson has brought to the party, massively, was his carrying and general athletic aggression. Starting him as the tight row seemed to totally nullify all that. But if he was started at 6, we would have had a weaker lineout (one of the only things to actually work on Sunday) and no real improvement at the breakdown. He also hadn’t played there at international level since March 2014. In short, I don’t think that is the silver bullet some seem to think it is.

    • WatchingCartoons

       /  October 21, 2015

      In fairness, I don’t think Fitz would cut it in the front row…

  5. jacothelad

     /  October 21, 2015

    That sinking feeling arrived because we hit the iceberg of Schmidt’s selection policy and dull game plan. He based it around solidity and not skill. One must assume that when Cave plays his off-loading, try scoring, try creating game for Ulster or indeed Ireland he is somehow shrouded by the Klingon Cloaking Device which prohibits Schmidt from seeing what he does. However, just like the mantra about Gilroy that has been spread that he somehow is pretty useless, Cave suffers from the same thing. If Ireland had scraped through and had a few more injuries, the ball boys at the RDS had been primed for ‘The Call-up’.

    How many times does Keith Earls have to show that when the pressure comes on at 13 he is found wanting. Being very quick and a stepper v. minnows, Keet looks o.k. I’m pretty sure any decent player can look good in those circumstances. Against the heavy hitters he just doesn’t make the grade. In turn he is then lost to the wing so we have Daverage in his place and it shows.

    Ah! But we are told Dave was going great guns in training. Way to go to get your pet players in Joe. Training is just great. Just like the real thing. Not. Dave is o.k. but he isn’t in the same class as Keet, Zebo, Trimble or even the bizarrely ignored Gilroy.. If only Gilroy had the same strike rate as – say – Fitzgerald maybe Joe would look at him differently.

    On that subject, after 30+ games for Ireland in which he was little more than an empty shirt, Fitzgerald showed that ability he first trialled when he was about 19. It’s been a long wait. His try scoring has now reached 16 in total in the last 6 years mostly against Zebre. Brill…Cue the argument that scoring isn’t the wingers prime job…my arse.

    As for Murphy at 6 and Ryan on the bench, that was pretty naive. Jordi Murphy is a fine player but he lacks the brute force that Henderson brings. Instead Henderson was locked into the tight trying to arm wrestle in a losing cause. Still, the alternative was Ruddock who hasn’t played a full game for about 6 months and consequently is clearly not match fit. No one knows if his injury has healed properly. Healy in full fitness is a shoo in. He isn’t fit. I never thought I’d type this but Kilcoyne would have been better. Buckley of Connacht would absolutely have been better.

    Mike McCarthy. Isaac Boss, Injured Ruddock…..says it all really. Sadly, we thought such selections were a thing of the past now that Deccie is in Academia. It appears not.

    Let’s review.
    1. Healy was clearly not fit and not playing as well as McGrath so he starts.
    2. Best. Player of the tournament for Ireland. Surprising he was selected ahead of 2 Leinster players, This is not usual.
    3. Ross, White. Excellent from both although Ross is pretty much a non- player in the loose.
    4 /5. Toner. a decent RWC. Ryan. didn’t get much chance and isn’t really a very top notch international in comparison to the other 3. Henderson did well and has much to give.

    POC. Best tight forward from Ireland in my life and I was born in the 1940s. What a loss.
    It’s difficult to type the name Mike McCarthy in the same context.

    6. POM was playing really well. He hasn’t really been the fantastic player that seems to be his current status among the press and his most ardent fans. He simply doesn’t usually do enough but he was having a great tournament. For a change he was doing more than the odd eye catching bit of play which gets him noticed . Look at his international rugby stats and you’ll see what I mean.
    Murphy. A bit meh!
    7.SOB. Beast.
    Henry. played very well when called upon.
    8. Heaslip. What a player. The best 8 we’ve had since Ken Goodall.
    9. Murray. He has played better. His box kicking was not great.
    Reddan.Time for the bus pass. Isaac Boss.ffs.
    10. Sexton was o.k. but didn’t ever look completely fit.
    Madigan. Great / mince. Great / mince. Repeat and rinse.
    Jackson. I hope he enjoyed his paid holiday. Luckliy for him he didn’t get on because all the blame would have been diverted in his direction as it was before.
    11 / 14.Bowe, Zebo, Earls. Fitzgerald. Kearney. All the wings gave something. In Kearney’s case it was a revolving door to Argentina.
    12. Henshaw was pretty good but is not a 12 who will actually make a constructive play. He is big, strong, fast and doesn’t mind putting his head in danger. Should replace Rob at 15.
    Cave. Played well out of position when given a chance. Looked like the only full time centre in the squad.
    Fitzgerald. O.K.
    13. Earls. Ultimately failed. Payne. Was missed big time. Cave. Should have been given a chance here.
    15. ROB. Not the player of 2009.
    !

    • You wonder how a player like Gilroy (score tries, runs into space, defensive question marks) would be considered in Argentina. He’s more in the Cordero mode than any other of our wingers. But 3.5 years after that try in Thomond he’s basically still unmapped internationally

    • curates_egg

       /  October 21, 2015

      Also a Gilroy fan but your rant is a bit tainted by your SUFTUM-tinted glasses. Henry was really bad on Sunday and if you were really trying to be credible you must acknowledge that. He is a hard-working and honest player who has delivered for Ireland in the past but failed massively on this occasion. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of the rest of your points but the one you are wrong about is Ross is in the loose.

    • Daire

       /  October 26, 2015

      11 / 14.Bowe, Zebo, Earls. Fitzgerald. Kearney. All the wings gave something. In Kearney’s case it was a revolving door to Argentina.

      Hahaha! That’s a great line.
      Seriously though, it’s my number one wtf? Wing is the one position where we have a number of good options, yet Average Dave plays?

  6. Well Curates Egg, let me tell you that you will be in the same position in four years time. History repeats itself and i can see nothing on the horizon that is going to change. It is more fundamental than players and style of game. It is about interest in the game and widening the player pool. Our national broadcaster wasn’t bothered covering the game and left us to TV3 which should rugby between the adds.The Irish Times has abandoned on rugby in both quality and extent of comment. It doesn’t even report on our national league in any informative way.The branches and the unions are self serving, inward talking, secret organisations that just ignore the supporting public. Yet there is a well of interest there that is waiting for the big day. If you can change that you will at least make a start. But I thought that change would happen after we were beaten in Lans and I attended a meeting in Lansdowne Rugby Club, which is not my club, and which the IRFU tried to stop at which Bob Dwyer gave very good guidance. Nothing happened except we introduced tag rugby.

    So concentrate on the problem. Look under the bonnet. It is about more than changing the wing mirrors and the wheels. Rebuild the engine from scratch now, and then we might just be able to talk semi in four years time.

    • curates_egg

       /  October 21, 2015

      It’s the hope and expectation that beget the disappointment though. If I can eliminate them, at least I can manage my own performance 😉

  7. SportingBench

     /  October 21, 2015

    Spirit crushing it definitely is. The overriding feeling is we didn’t give it our best shot. I am sure people will say we weren’t good enough, missing players etc. Naturally people want a single reason or quick fix but I think getting better for Ireland is about multiple little steps, the often misused ‘marginal gains’ rather than sweeping changes. We showed for about 45 minutes we could compete and actually displayed tournament credentials in that period, turning equilibrium into points. That is positive. Argentina weren’t simply better, they simply played at a higher level for more of the game. It isn’t helpful or indeed accurate to either deflate what we have in Ireland or over inflate what Argentina have. We could have beaten them even with a 17 point start and if a few isolated things in the game gone differently, despite shortcomings, we could be talking about a famous victory. Had we got the kick to go level, had they got a red, had the ref given a penalty to Ireland a couple of times it appeared he gave the benefit of the doubt to Argentina…? Small margins leading to big hurt.

    I realise now what a mistake allowing MO’C to select Gopperth over Madigan was. We only have 4 pro teams so cannot allow developing players to be shunted around in favour of journey men NIQs in any position but particular in skill positions. Madigan would have been better prepared having had more starts at 10 for Leinster and carrying the weight on his shoulders. Unfortunately Jackson simply isn’t good enough kicking for goal to select this RWC. We also did miss some aggression around the ruck particularly at the start and end. POM and funnily enough, the spiky Sexton would have helped and of course Payne, everyone now realises, has done a great job of covering our slight weakness outside defensively. Like with England and Slade, why bring Cave if he isn’t an actual playing option? If Earls was to cover centre as well as wing we should have brought Trimble in the squad as at least he would have been another option to play.

    It is interesting that you confess to not watching lots of SH rugby. I watch a bit and it is a faster, more intense tempo and we saw in both the Ireland and Scotland games that if one team is not at the right intensity then even a relatively poor team operating at the correct level will win. Scotland did not become world beaters overnight, Australia were not at the normal levels. What you do learn from watching S15 and RC is that SH teams have a higher base line intensity. They basically play harder. In the NH only Wales operate at a similarly consistently high intensity which is why under Gatland they outperform the relative talent in their squad. Too often Ireland, England, France and the top club teams win games with 30 – 40 minutes of top level rugby and then coast/hang on through the game. Look at the last 6N. Ireland dropped off at the roughly 60 minute mark against both France and England. Against Wales we started badly for the first 15 Argentina we did that again combined with the 60 min drop off. It cost us.
    Argentina were better than us on Sunday but there is not a single cause

    • We watch as much S15 / RC as our schedules allow (4 kids under 6) but it certainly isn’t as much as NH rugby.

      • SportingBench

         /  October 21, 2015

        I have similar restrictions though ocassionally the Smalls help my rugby watching by getting up early and my wife not caring if I give them a diet of chocolate and SH rugby for breakfast as they are not making noise in her earshot 🙂

  8. Well, it was certainly worth flying over and driving across and back to London for! Sigh.

    One thing that you haven’t mentioned that I think may have had a bearing is the order of the fixtures. Argentina went balls out against BNZ in their first match of the tournament, and while they took a heroic defeat, they spent the next three weeks getting their systems and squad prepared for the QF.

    Ireland on the other hand going into the tournament had this lovely curve of difficulty which fans, pundits and players/coaches alike thought would aid us in our preparation, when in reality we took a couple of key injuries (and a suspension) and pulled out yet another emotionally charged and inspiring performance, and then fell flat against QF opponents whom we probably didn’t show enough respect to.

    I also think the debate about how much X Factor/creativity Joe has in the matchday squad is going to rear its head again. Mads has it, albeit in two forms: run or bullet pass; but (please don’t hurt me) I’m not sure Sexton still has it against top quality opposition. Coming into the tournament there was a discussion about Sexton being Europe’s premier out half and how he was potentially better than Dan Carter. It now seems like he’s *so* dependent on loop plays, whereas DC can hand off Pascal Pape like he’s nothing and create a try with a pop out the back. I don’t think it’s entirely Sexton’s fault, he’s working with Joe to work with the resources they have, but when there’s so little creativity in the backs outside of the fly half it can make us as predictable as Warrenball.

    The biggest disappointment though was just seeing how out at sea in defence and in the air we were, and how we weren’t able to respond. Why put PJ on the bench if you’re not going to use him? There was definitely a sense of a lack of mongrel from the selection of Murphy as well. He’s a good ball carrier and did well but I’d agree that Toner/Ryan/Henderson would have made for a better starting lineup, even if it thins us out on the bench.

    Leadership is going to be a big thing going forward, and it might not be the worst time to name some fresh ones for the 6N. Heaslip is a great player, but (and I could be well off the mark) he never seems to inspire players when a leader is needed to get a team to dig deep in the way POC can. There’s also a chance he doesn’t make it to RWC2019 (although with his Wolverine blood I wouldn’t put it past him). Why not name one of the younger players who are generally going to be a lock like NWJMB or Henshaw as captain? If you look back at young captains in recent-ish history (BOD, Warburton, Ruchie, Dusautoir) they definitely seem to do well.

    Ah well, back to one-eyed Ulster fanaticism I guess.

    • SportingBench

       /  October 21, 2015

      Indirectly you also address an important point Tran. Generally the SH teams build on a 4 year cycle. Appoint coach & develop players to peak at the RWC (okay, went slightly wrong for Aus this time but generally that’s the approach). Ireland haven’t demonstrated by the last two coaching changes and BOD’s retirement a year out from the RWC. Schmidt’s current contract and the captaincy are two things that should be addressed with the 4 year cycle in mind.

      • Building to the World Cup and syncing the coach’s contract with that are not the same thing.

        Hansen’s contract for NZ runs to 2017, the same as Schmidt’s. Lancaster was contracted to Star Date 37,43,2020* and look how that worked out.

        The only team who consistently contract coaches on a strict World-Cup-cycle basis are France. Enough said.

        (* or on a 12 month rolling contract with results-based exit clauses, depending on who you believe)

        My thinking on reasons why we failed against Argentina and why we aren’t quite there yet in general (in reverse order):

        (6) Refereeing decisions – Argentina could have lost one or both props to second half cards when we had just about caught them. In that case I have no doubt we would have squeezed them til the pips squeaked and got into the semis. That would, however, have been a travesty of the order of SOB getting red carded against France and that shower beating us.

        (5) Injuries – take Retallick, Kaino, McCaw, Carter and Conrad Smith out of the NZ team and see how they get on (probably better than us but i wouldn’t bet the house on them taking Argentina).

        (4) Selection – already down half a pack, we made 2 more obviously erroneous selections in picking Healy and Murphy.

        (3) Defence – I don’t mean the individual mistakes from Average Dave and Keet, I mean the system. 3 of our last 4 games against non-bunny opposition, our opponents (England, Italy, Argentina) have undone us simply by throwing the ball wide. We get drifty and soaky as if we were playing league, but there ain’t no handover after 6 phases. I’ve no doubt we’ll get a new defence coach who can sort this out though. Sorry about that Ulster.

        (2) 6 nations – We get 3 competitive, competitive games a year (Wales, England, France), now perhaps falling towards 2 or 1 looking at our beefy and beoufy friends. Argentina get 6 every year except RWC year.

        (1) An overly prescriptive game plan. It’s ok to have systems but if they stop the players thinking they do more harm that good. At Leinster the system was a framework (“they’re not dummy runners, they’re all genuine options” – Barnesy) whereas here it’s a prescription. This leads to players either second guessing themselves and standing off the opposition (England, Italy, Argentina all the way back to Australia in Schmidt’s first match) while dealing with an apparent information overload, or not thinking/looking up at all (e.g. Murray’s perfectly weighted contestable box kick to Bowe’s wing against Argentina… when Bowe was lying injured on the floor). The better football teams (Barca, Bayern) realised a couple of years ago that their too-precise passing gameplan was limiting their scoring opportunities: there weren’t enough transitions from defence to attack and vice versa, so they’ve introduced more dribbling and box-to-box type players to break things up. Not exactly the same thing in rugby, but if you look at Picamoles try against NZ and the first Argentine try against us, it was poor passes going to ground as much as anything else that stood up the defences. A looser style of play with the likes of Bowe or Gilroy giving us genuine gas, the ability to think on your feet, and some licence to try things is probably necessary to beat the top teams.

  9. Grubber

     /  October 21, 2015

    The nature of the defeat was hard to stomach and the gulf in class on the day was clear but this was an Ireland team devoid of many of its core players losing to a bloody good Argentina team. No great shame there.

    On the great North-South divide, clearly New Zealand are in a class of their own when they hit top form, but is the gap that great between the rest? Without doubt Argentina and Australia and New Zealand are playing a brand of rugby that is much more stylish and appealing than that on offer from the Home nations and France, and you would have to say that it looks like the Southern Hemisphere are playing rugby the way it should be played. South Africa are a different beast, literally.

    But if your purely taking about gaps in quality and ability to win, Australia have been a mixed bag. They didn’t exactly hammer Wales and Scotland did they? South Africa-Wales could easily have gone the other way. How does the Ireland Argentina game pan out if the ref doesn’t bottle it. In no way did we deserve to beat Argentina but we could well have done if they had rightly had to cope with 14 men for half an hour. Were we that far away from 2/3 northern hemisphere teams in the semi-finals? No.

    We certainly haven’t seen the best of the Northern Hemisphere teams at this World Cup for various reasons (not least some serious injuries for Wales and Ireland) and I certainly think they should be looking to adopt a more expansive and attractive gameplan but the great cavernous North-South divide is being wildly exaggerated. New Zealand apart of course! They are ridiculous…

  10. andrew097

     /  October 21, 2015

    We were out played and out coached it pains me to say. They were better at tackle selection, passing, running lines, decision making at the breakdown, their kicking was better as their kicking policy was better thought out. Their players had no obvious flaws where ours still showed ones that have been there for years. Their body positioning was much better and some how this has been attained with young players and only a couple of seasons playing the big boys. If Argentina can get their players to play like that then why can’t we. Next time we go to a World Cup forget about warm up games with NH sides, play the lesser NH sides we then might get up to speed on the quick thinking, fast decision making rugby that is played down there.
    I really though when Schmidt took over we would play a more expansive skill, speed of though off loading game but it seems Ireland’s rugby culture drags everybody in to a one off flash win level. Until we start to develop players and remove basic flaws from their game we will always be in this position.

    • SportingBench

       /  October 21, 2015

      Except that is not true to say Arg were better at everything. We weren’t annihilated in the way you describe. We were a missed kick from being level with 15 minutes to go. I think that needs to be remembered. We need to improve but it is not wholesale fundamental issues to be addressed. We have not regressed int he last four years.

    • osheaf01

       /  October 21, 2015

      I was at both games in Cardiff. No comparison between the Saturday game, where France were clearly second best from the off, and Sunday’s. An hour into the 2nd game and it was clearly up for grabs, despite the 17 point start; the Argentinians looked tired and were struggling to get from ruck to ruck. 4 or 5 small things turned it, but in accumulation they were massive:
      1) Failing to score at 17-20 with an overlap well inside their 22, when Henshaw went himself and got turned over
      2) Madigan missing 2 kicks – the one that hit the post in the first half is one he really should have got. The second one was extreme range.
      3) Herrera’s second yellow card. He would certainly have got a yellow if he hadn’t already had one. As clear a case of referee-bottling as you’ll ever see. It was a flying headbutt ffs.
      4) Toner giving away a soft penalty for a “high” tackle. 20-26.
      5) Madigan kicking out on the full from our 10 metre line.
      6) Murray’s fumble at the scrum.
      The most annoying thing was that the defensive problems – getting round us out wide – were never solved, even at half-time. Kearney Jnr should also have been hooked – he had the veritable nightmare – evoking Geordan “Turnstiles” Murphy.

  11. andrew097

     /  October 21, 2015

    Lesser SH sides I wanted to say.

  12. Billy

     /  October 21, 2015

    Good article – I had a massive rant prepared and you covered off most of it.

    I would say though that this Argentinian team were no great shakes. They have won two games from 21 since they joined the Rugby Championship and despite performing better this year still scored the fewest tries in the competition. The captain and their 8 both played in the English second tier last year and the eleven of their squad on Sunday played in an amateur league last year. No disrespect to them but we should not be losing 43-20 to a team like this in a RWC QF. The main difference for me was intensity and physicality, most evident in the collision.

    Consistently losing collisions aids attacking quick ball, reduces opportunities at turnovers/ball-slowing, makes any meaningful defensive line speed impossible and forces the defence to narrow. It does not take a great team to tear it up out wide in these circumstances. The best example I saw of this was in the build-up to the second try when Herrera, supported by Ayerza made about 5 yards off Henderson and Healy (our two most dynamic forwards?) off slow ball.

    And can we confront the elephant in the room over Schmidt lying about Sexton’s concussion versus France – unless you want to believe he vomited on the pitch from a mild groin strain…

    Also, off-topic, Madigan’s banana kick in his own half at 17-3 – if I’d had a gun….

    • Several sportspersons (non-rugby: either omerta or ignorance) talked about this on Saturday morning when Sexton got ruled out. Our (and many others) first reaction was that Sexton had a head injury, and we were surprised to hear otherwise. Last Monday, we blogged “The official story is that it was muscular” very deliberately as we simply weren’t buying what was being sold. But then again, that’s a serious allegation, so we’re giving the management the benefit of the doubt, as the alternative is so tough to buy in terms of player welfare.

      • SportingBench

         /  October 21, 2015

        I always assumed Sexton was missing the game but was named originally as a basic and transparent attempt to deflect some attention / pressure off Madigan. I have no sources in the camp but would assume that the players were well aware Sexton wouldn’t make Sunday. Groin tweaks notoriously linger so even without any suggestion of a head injury it would have been unusual for him to be fit.

  13. ORiordan

     /  October 21, 2015

    Where now? is the question in my head and I’d hope that Joe is smart enough to realise that evolution is needed rather than sticking to things that served him well in the past. It took EOS and Deccie too long to realise the sell by date for this approach.

    For defence I don’t know when Les Kiss and the removal van is heading up the M1 and Joe hasn’t announced a successor, but it won’t take a rocket scientist to see that other teams have sussed Ireland out. The likes of Italy weren’t good enough to fully exploit it, but others are. The Argentina game looks like a failure of both systems and personnel.

    For attack, surely Joe must evolve Ireland’s play to encourage offloading and with his eye for detail, that means coaching running lines and how to take contact for an offload. His low risk approach is becoming high risk, in that the opposition know exactly how Ireland will attack and defend accordingly.

    • connachtexile

       /  October 21, 2015

      Leinster fans will probably hate me for this but I’d love to see Kurt McQuilkin given the nod as the new Irish Defence coach.

  14. scrumdog

     /  October 21, 2015

    We obviously had a severe challenge out wide and two almost identical tries were run in on Kearney on both wings, There had to have been poor communications between Earls and Kearney and further out the line. I don’t think it would have made a difference if Julian Savea had been on our wings.I think we need Earls’ pace on the wings but an outside center he is not and Darren Cave should have started or Luke Fitzgerald in place of Payne. If you have nobody co-ordinating the defence you are simply stuffed.

    I fully agree the backrow should have been Henderson-Heaslip-Henry with Ryan at lock and McGrath instead of Healy in the starting lineup.
    Looking toward the coming Six Nations we need to play talent that has the pace and handling ability to attack space and play risk rugby. A ‘balanced’ back row would go a long way if it included a fleet footed open side flanker, our backrow just doesn’t have a ‘quickness’ to it to pressure the opposition halves or support line breaks, thinking Van de Flyer and Tommy O’Donnell here. I’m all for experimenting in the next Six Nations playing expansive rugby and getting off on the right foot toward blooding young players for the next RWC and if we happen to win the tournament fine but that should not be the priority this February. I need to see some fresh faces in the match day 23 to get my interest tuned in.

    All for bringing back an Irish Trial too..Probables v Possibles.

    Rory Best was the top player on the day and it might be an idea to convert Dennis Buckley of Connacht to hooker for the future as we have enough props and will eventually need to replace Best’s ability at the breakdown for the next RWC.

    • mikerob2015

       /  October 21, 2015

      Isn’t Leinster v Munster and Leinster v Ulster the same as a Probables v Possibles game? 😉

      • scrumdog

         /  October 21, 2015

        I don’t believe it is. Two teams consisting of the best players from each Province playing together would be and would provide a look at combinations.

    • Re: Buckley as hooker – why in the name of God would you try to convert a prop in his mid twenties who has never played hooker in his life as opposed to looking to fast-tracking someone who, say, already plays in that position?

      • scrumdog

         /  October 21, 2015

        Just a suggestion, outside the box, to use a prop who is ‘surplus to immediate needs’ and has major breakdown skills that would benefit the national team. Buckley’s a front row player so it actually may not be that difficult to switch him to hooker, it would be if it were the opposite and trying to move over from hooker to prop. These days a hooker has to be a strong scrummager and the ball is usually fed illegally without penalty anyway so flexibility for the skill of striking is likely not the requirement it once was.Is there a hooker with equal or better ability at the breakdown to fast track? If there is then sure.

        • Kelly

           /  October 21, 2015

          The issue will be come lineout time. Some fellas who’ve played most their lives at hooker still struggle hugely with their darts. It’d take someone a fair chunk of time just to get competent. It might look like an easy job but it’s pretty difficult, high pressure and a provides some of the best attacking ball.

          • scrumdog

             /  October 21, 2015

            I agree and don’t think its an easy job playing at hooker at all.I believe anyone can throw a ball straight with lots of practice, its getting in sync with the lifters and the jumper that’s the difficult part and of course the elements can change everything. Extra work on individual skills can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear! Just for laughs..the hooker does not have to be the designated thrower….and it really should be the most accurate player at throwing the ball in, whether it be a flanker, a winger or a hooker.

          • Kelly

             /  October 21, 2015

            Sorry if you thought I implied you thought it was easy. As a former hooker its a serious gripe of mine when watching rugby hearing everyone castigate a hooker when a lineout goes array as if he’s the only one who has any bearing on the outcome.

  15. Andrew097

     /  October 21, 2015

    We were not thrashed but a 23 point margin and the way they played through the whole game suggest that we were obviously second best to them in the game that mattered most to us. I,m just suggesting that we should stop with the buts, and ifs and look honestly at our execution of skills and decisions making.
    We should be going through every moment of that game and asking ourselves was that a good tackle, was it the right tackle to make, if so was it executed perfectly, with the correct result. There is no point in going through obvious mistakes going if only its going through ever detail and seeing if it was done right or could be done better.
    Argentina are playing where we want to be with their resources and we are not.

  16. seiko

     /  October 21, 2015

    As far as I can recall from Ireland recent tour to Argentina where we scraped through with two wins, Darren Cave was less than impressive (and no excuses that he was not playing in a full strength team, not getting a run of games this time please). Andrew Trimble wasn’t the answer either – in fact the best Irish back from that tour was Simon Zebo who was left sitting in the stands last week.

    Having had recent experience with a full strength squad against Argentina, Schmidt should have been prepared better for this game.

    The scapegoating of Keith Earls is disgraceful. Keith was so busy resourcing rucks to shore up the backrow that he couldn’t have also be sorting out Dave Kearney’s positioning for him. This bigging up of Jared Payne’s ‘D’ is nothing more than a propaganda drive to ensure that he retains the 13 jersey, because otherwise, Brian O’Driscoll’s pal, Rob Kearney could be under pressure for the 15 jersey.

    Which also reminds me – why is Brian O’Driscoll being taken serious as a pundit when as a partner in Ikon Sports Management, he is the agent of some of these players, not to mention being employed by Newstalk whose owner, Denis O’Brien pays Johnny Sexton’s wages.

    • curates_egg

       /  October 21, 2015

      Wow. That is quite the theory. Don’t piss on the electric fence when you have your tinfoil hat on!

      I’d actually prefer to have had Payne at 15 as well but it was way too late for that by the time we got to the world cup. As someone who has never been convinced by him going forward at 13, I have had to also always acknowledge that he is really good in defence. If you are seriously claiming that Earls would have been better or that his defence was acceptable at the world cup, then you are undermining your argument though.

      We now have 4 years to develop a backline and that means selecting people in the right positions with the right skillsets and stopping to hammer square pegs into round holes. Apart from Henshaw, there seem to be a few decent prospects at Ulster (McCloskey, Marshall, Olding) and Ringrose at Leinster certainly has potential (I wonder if Fitz will now finally be played at 12 inside him but doubt it). I hope the national coach will be given a proper remit to this because we have lost far too much time.

    • Lop12

       /  October 21, 2015

      Plenty grief on these pages over the years when Frankie did similar ramping of players

      • curates_egg

         /  October 22, 2015

        Yeah but this is where we are really going into orbit: “not to mention being employed by Newstalk whose owner, Denis O’Brien pays Johnny Sexton’s wages”. What has that got to do with anything? I have a pretty cynical/sceptical mind but I can’t even extrapolate the conspiracy out of that one.

  17. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  October 21, 2015

    FWIW I actually think we would have beaten this Argentinian teams with our five key players on the pitch. While their skill levels are a step above I thought there was also a certain ‘callowness of youth’ about them and with our leaders present we would have retained possession better and frustrated them into making more errors and possibly panicking a little.
    What is truly depressing, however, is to think about where both teams are in their respective development curves – as regards both individual player profiles and playing style / systems. Not to mention the pending arrival of Los Jaguares in 2016 Super Rugby.
    Care to cast your mind forward to a potential rematch in Japan?

    • I agree with you. We can debate the merits of systems and selection until we all go blue in the face, but the more I turn over the match in my mind, the more I come back to the simplest explanation: the team collectively panicked, and didn’t have the leadership there to get them back on track.

      In the first 15 minutes, the two things on which Ireland prides itself – defence and the breakdown – were blown apart. Despite that spell looking like rabbits in headlights, the team dug down, stuck to the basics (including an excellent lineout) and although they never looked like world-beaters, they got the Pumas to a point where they seemed rattled. At that 20-23 point, Garces was starting to give us penalties every time we had the ball. All we needed to do was hang the hell onto it. Instead, we got Panic II: This Time It’s Personal. Kicking possession back to Argentina over and over again, even though they clearly had the better of us when they’d ball in hand. Stupid handling errors. Exactly the sort of thing that could potentially have been halted by a timely inspirational bollocking from Paulie or Sexton. Best and Heaslip both tried to lead by playing out of their skins but that just wasn’t enough in that kind of environment.

      On a practical level the most obvious culprit for the loss was the passive, narrow defence – especially because Ireland’s best performances are almost always built on a super aggressive and committed defence (think vs the ABs in 2013). I guess I just cannot imagine that Schmidt, Kiss or anyone in the coaching squad sent the players out to defend so passively on purpose. It makes no sense. Committing so few men to rucks was clearly an intentional gamble, surely done in order to ensure there were always men to defend? Which makes me think that that the passivity has to come down to “the mental”.

      Having said all of that (and I realise it’s an essay), I am way more depressed than I would have been had this just been a “systems” failure. To me it points to a much more long-standing problem, which is the concern I had last week: Ireland’s continuing reliance on emotion to get through big games, and struggle to execute when that emotional intensity, for whatever reason, isn’t there. Toward the end of the Deccie years that was how we got huge performances followed by total embarrassments. The hope was that the Schmidt era would bring more consistency by striking a better balance between emotion and clinical planning; but maybe without the top guys around to monitor and police that balance, we just reverted to type. That makes me really sad, because unless we can get past it, we’ll never be any better than we are now.

  18. One talk point out failings of particular players and/or the coaching team. The most relevant fact of all however is, that Ireland are the only Tier 1 nation to have never won a KO game at the RWC since its inception in 1987. There must be something we are doing wrong that the others aren’t. On top of which we continue to fail at the same hurdle every time. On the 6 Nations front Wales within recent memory won the Grand Slam more times in the space of five, six years than we have done since the IRFU was set up over a century ago. We are not just “worst chokers in the history of the rugby world cup” as we were described – correctly – in Monday’s Australian, but the perennial underachievers of world rugby. When I see for example in a survey also on Monday on balls.ie, where a majority of Irish fans say by a 60 to 40 percent margin that they’d rather lose comprehensively than how Scotland did i.e. pipped at the end, then I despair!!! Ditto all the seafóid about a standing ovation for Paulie five minutes into the Argentina match!. Both are indicative of a losers outlook. The Irish want to be praised for being the best fans and great craic. They don’t want to win, or at least are not prepared to put in the systematic, long-term, meticulous organisational work that that requires. No wonder the likes of New Zealand don’t take us seriously, as we don’t do it ourselves!!! Anything less than a root and branch review by the IRFU of why we have lost seven RWC QF eight times on the trot means they have no real interest in addressing the malaise.Am still under a dark cloud after Sunday and the only light I see on the horizon is Leo’s and Girve’s attempt to resurrect the “Leinster Way”. Notwithstanding my own provincial alliances I do hope Les Kiss can get Ulster firing on all pistons and particularly that talented backline of theirs flying. The sooner we see Stuart Olding in a green jersey again, the better!!!!!

  19. Punk Anderson

     /  October 21, 2015

    The formula (playing with high emotion, getting off on front foot/leading at halftime, dependence on Sexton) has basically worked, even it if didn’t vs. Argentina and likely has hit its high point vs. Southern Hemisphere sides.

    Back-to-back Six Nations titles, results in the Autumn Internationals, large crowds at the Aviva, highly respected coach in place. “Results Over Process” has been the demand.

    Would the IRFU and (paying) public tolerate a potential 4-year, Cheika-style “Process Over Results” plan, in the hopes of getting beyond the quarter-finals of the next World Cup, and having a more expansive game beyond that?

    The likely answer is no, from both groups.

    • Erm, for Australia Cheika’s “Process Over Results” plan was about 12 months in length and involved winning the Rugby Championship.

    • Well, at both Leinster and Munster last season there were high-profile examples of Irish skill players not being selected – Madigan and Hanrahan. In Madigan’s case, an NIQ got the nod ahead of him, and in Hanrahan’s an Irish player who is essentially unmapped internationally. I suspect Schmidt wasn’t too happy with either situation, and now Hanrahan is out of the Irish system. “Process over results” implies a system where O’Connor/Foley can essentially be guided from the centre – maybe not on selection, but certainly on gameplan, which implicitly drives selection.

      • So Schmidt needs to tell Munster and Leinster to start young Irish players over NIE journeymen and adapt their style so it’s more like… Ulster and Connacht? Completely fair point but I fear that might go down like a bucket of cold vomit…

  20. David

     /  October 21, 2015

    It isn’t the only answer, but we gotta get guys exposed to test rugby earlier in their career. We were the oldest squad at RWC partly because sometimes it feels like getting a cap for Ireland in a serious test game has an age limit.

    And yes this is a direct advocacy for getting McCloskey into the Ireland senior set up as soon as possible. A centre partnership of McCloskey and Henshaw would be explosive.

  21. Punk Anderson

     /  October 21, 2015

    If you feel that the Cheika-Australia situation isn’t unique, and can be easily replicated in Ireland, fair play to you.

    I feel it is unique, for a couple of reasons:

    -He inherited a Southern Hemisphere squad, vastly experienced, who already had exposure to “the Australian way” somewhere in their development/career.

    -Cheika had huge leverage with the Australian Rugby Union to set a mandate upon accepting the job, given recent results vs. NZ, impending World Cup, squad dysfunction, etc.

    Also, what’s Schmidt’s motivation to undergo a revision of playing style? He’s in line to be a leading candidate for the All Blacks job when it opens. Possibly win another 6N, beat a SH team or two, then head to NZ (national team or get in line with Super Rugby job).

    A change from what has worked in recent times (outside of the World Cup) is a massive undertaking, a major concern being who will be the person with the vision/power/mandate to lead the effort.

    • SportingBench

       /  October 21, 2015

      As an aside Schmidt has zero chance of the ABs job unless at least one of Ireland winning the Grand Slam or Ireland beating the ABs happens. He probably needs both and possibly multiple Grand Slams. Best he can hope for at the moment is a SR job or being invited to be an assistant coach at international level. In the SH they don’t pay much attention to what happens in the NH unless, like England in 2001-2003, it punches them in the face. Repeatedly. Hell, the SH is consistently better than the NH yet only rugby geeks in the NH watch the competitions in the SH who why do we think NZ cares about a couple of 6Ns on points difference? We think Schmidt is great but without bigger results, particularly against the ABs or RWC progress he is not on the radar in NZ.

  22. Leinsterlion

     /  October 21, 2015

    I would caution against “us” getting caught up in the “sky is falling” narrative that France and England are locked into. Most of Argentina’s squad play in the GP or Top 14 or developed there, leagues that supposedly hinder their national sides, “turning players into leaden footed bosh merchants”. The difference between the NH and SH is coaching and level of international play imo. Argentina have had Josephs, Smith, Henry etc in their camp at various stages implementing their NZ-lite gameplan, in addition to them actually playing NZ, SA and AUS in the quad nations and it shows. How else to explain players who come from “bosh heavy NH rugby” playing “SH style” at international level?

    For the past four years coaching failures like Lancaster and PSA have bemoaned their league turning their charges into mindless lumps, yet a team who draws the majority of their squad from those leagues is the antithesis of both France and England, the difference has to be coaching. They are simply shit coaches.
    Irelands players play at the same level as Argentina’s at club level, the difference is Argentina have been drawing on the brains most successful coaching set up of the past decade, Ireland have not, we have Joe Schmidt and not much else. Schmidt has lost a high level coach recruited from the S15 in Plumtree and replaced him with, eh, Easterby, who can hardly be classed in the same league, coming as he has, from a dire Pro 12 team.
    There is no reason for Argentinian players to be 20 points better than ours when you take into account the leagues etc that they come from, it has to be coaching. We simply need to surround Schmidt with a higher level of backroom staff.

    • curates_egg

       /  October 22, 2015

      Almost all of Argentina’s squad are now contracted to UAR and had started moving back over the past year.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  October 22, 2015

        A year hardly makes a player a SH one, the core of their squad has been based in/developed in the NH, playing in supposedly inferior leagues and set ups that “hinder their national side”.
        Do you not think Ireland’s forward play has dropped off post-Plumtree? Kiss has gotten stale, most teams play a blitz heavy variation, the fact we didn’t adjust at all for the entire WC is mind blowing.
        Get in some fresh voices on the cutting edge of rugby coaching, trust the players to make errors, play at a higher tempo, offload, blitz in d, simple fixes.

        • Billy

           /  October 22, 2015

          11 of Argentina’s 23 played in the amateur Argentinian league last year, 2 (Capt Creevy and Senatore) played in English Championship (2nd tier) and the remaining 10 played GP or Top 14 or Rabo – of these a good few only played there last season (Lavanini, Paz, etc.). Matera, for example, only made 8 appearances in two years at Leicester. Tuculet (FB) was an also-ran at Cardiff Blues last year. They are no world beaters.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  October 22, 2015

            Thanks for doing the research, lol, we dont have a structural or player deficiency, we were simply out coached.

          • Billy

             /  October 22, 2015

            You can’t say we were out-coached and absolve Schmidt – he is the most culpable if that’s what you believe. We bottled it.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  October 22, 2015

            I do believe Schmidt is culpable, Ive said as much countless times on here. We were playing myopic rugby, I said we will have to open up eventually to beat better teams, we didnt open up and we lost. I do think the backroom staff have a part to play in that loss, in the sense that no pro sports management team is one guy running the whole show, as much as the media paints St.Joe the Holy Roman Emperor, he’s not, its a team effort.

          • SportingBench

             /  October 22, 2015

            It is much to easy to say it is a coaching thing only. There are many factors that have gone into this defeat and some of the blame on coaching really belongs with professional players for some really poor choices in the heat of battle.
            We lost against Wales in the 6N because the forwards kept picking and going on the Welsh line. They can’t have been coached to do such a mindless tactic that wasn’t working because the backs were standing in space screaming for the ball. At least half the team seemed open to other tactics. If we are blaming the coaching then half the team were openly defining orders (which half?).
            A number of times in the RWC we chose to kick away good ball, most comically when Murray box kicked to no chaser on the blind side and ignored / didn’t see an overlap out in the openside against Italy and other players particularly Bowe, made sure he knew how idiotic they thought that choice was.
            At the critical point against Argentina as Rachel above says, having dragged ourselves somehow into the match by keeping the ball in hand, we started forcing it and kicking away possession. I find it hard to believe that Joe would have told the team to get within 3 points, miss a chance to go level and then change the successful tactics. The change in approach was clearly bad choices from the players under the increasing pressure. Similarly with players taking contact rather than simple passes available (note there is a huge difference between regulation passing before a tackle and offloading out of the tackle, one is not high risk, the other can be) when there are overlaps or space for people outside to attack.
            Interestingly there is a suggestion that the ABs were training before some of the pool games so they could practice playing and making tough decisions when tired. Decision making is something the players do and only the players do and if we absolve them of that responsibility because they are good players, well, then they will never work at it to improve. Good players make better decisions. If our players are good they should make good choices. Not all the time but most of the time. Against Argentina they didn’t. Tactics can play a part but execution is down to the players

        • curates_egg

           /  October 22, 2015

          Some elements of our forward play have definitely dropped off post Plumtree, and our defence was definitely stale (and lacking the right elements at crucial times), but our back play is arguably the most disappointing part of our game over the past 2 years.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  October 22, 2015

            And that has been pointed out countless times, but victories set the narrative whilst the game moves on, we didnt adapt. I’ll confess to buying into the Pre WC spin that we’d open up(even after saying its impossible for teams to switch on), hearing hints of secret moves etc etc, I thought we would spring something. The fact our cupboard was utterly bare, and nothing changed is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the entire WC.

  23. Can’t say I’m heartbroken at all. The alarm bells* kept ringing louder and louder and after attending the Italy game I knew it was too late for us to turn it around. It was more a feeling of accepting the inevitable I experienced, compared to, say, our soul crushing RWC ’11 elimination – my own personal lowest moment as an Irish supporter. Re injuries, we had our first 15 out against Italy and created absolutely nothing. POC and the flankers would have improved our pack certainly, but their and Sexton’s inclusion wouldn’t have suddenly given our backline any creativity/the ability to pass the ball.

    During Joe’s tenure our pack have been excellent, brutalising every other nation’s forwards at some stage, consistently delivering a solid platform from lineouts and scrums. And our backs have done SFA with it. We’ve turned into a rugby league team, except we can’t even go 5 phases before belting it into the air. ZERO counter-attacking ability and our backlines 3 ‘moves’ are an awful loop, an inside pass into a winger/fullback that gets killed, or a crap garryowen/box kick (Murray world class at this one). Unbelievably robotic and never play what’s in front of us. Madigan’s GAA style kick to Earls when we had a massive overlap was an utter embarrassment. Fairplay to Argentina but we’re heaping praise on them for essentially being able to attack space and exploit overlaps. Neither of these things should be seen as spectacular or beyond us.

    Our pack was 30kg heavier than Argentina. Healy/Mc Grath, Ross/White, Toner, Henderson and SOB are all huge/beasts, Heaslip is plenty big, we’ve the biggest halfbacks around, and have Henshaw and Bowe…so why in god’s name ban offloads now that we’ve finally got a bit of size? I would understand our damage limitation gameplan if we had a squad like Italy’s, but that simply isn’t the case. IMO we have the personnel to implement a much more attractive, and more importantly, effective style. In fact, most of them (except Kieran Marmion) are in our WC squad staring Joe in the face, so it’s just a shift in mindset required. Basically get them to remember the way they played for Joe under Leinster! And for the love of god, bin Undroppable Bob and stick Jared Payne at fullback!

    There has to be a serious mental weakness within this team. If you look at the last few years we have consistently shat ourselves and blown big leads in games, even if we’ve emerged as winners in a few of them. Not to mention just not turning up on a few big days. Being so flat, timid, passive and comically inept at defending in a WC quarter final beggars belief. I really don’t know what can be done about this. Is it a cultural thing?? Clermont will be pissing themselves looking at us if we keep this up.

    Two Six Nations in a row is a great achievement given our rugby history, but we need to take a step back and acknowledge, that these days, one win against a half decent side (ie Wales or England) can win us the championship on PD. Ambition, attitude and a vast (but achievable) improvement in our back play is required to propel us to the next level.

    * Alarm Bells :
    (i) Our laughable attempt at playing free flowing rugby when we were cruising against an average Australia. Conceding 17 points in 15 minutes. Showed our general skills and ability to play fast +/ loose had regressed considerably. Looking back I think this match was crucial as I believe Joe lost all trust in the team’s ability to play anything except our 1950s gameplan. I don’t think an offload has been approved since Zebo’s mistake.
    (ii)The Welsh 6N match. One out static carries. Unbelievably blunt and no plan B. Showed how fragile our gameplan is once we’re matched or beaten aerially.
    (iii)The Scottish 6N match: Although the media spun that we played a more expansive game this year in Murrayfield, we didn’t. We played the same muck we played against Wales, but Scotland were so awful it paid dividends.
    (iv) Wales Warmup in the Aviva: Eerily reminscent of the 2011 David Wallace career ending English warmup. Still unbelievably sterile and we just couldn’t get going.
    (v) English warmup. A complete non performance with our passive defence now a bad habit. Awful passing, butchered overlaps, and beaten aerially again.
    (vi) The complete lack of questioning Joe’s methods/Our ‘We’ll be ok – it’s Joe’ attitude due to his record. Fair enough, but I remember the exact same thing with Kidney in 2010 after delivering 2 Heinekens and a Slam. I really felt more questions needed to be asked.
    (vii) The Italy game: Deafening alarm bells. Emotionally not at the races, Sexton missing handy kicks, being blunt now defining the team, and all around flatness and passivity.
    (viii) One of the great atmosphere’s I’ve attended, but the mirror image our RWC win vs Australia. I was so proud of the way the team stood up in adversity and mercilessly bullied a team who offered nothing except monstrous bulk and power, but I didn’t need to watch the match again to know that we had butchered countless overlaps, were killed aerially and hadn’t been asked any questions (apart from sheer physicality) for the duration of the group stages. I feared it was impossible to reach the same emotional pitch just a week later. Felt Argentina would have too much, but didn’t bank on us being so awful.

    ** I really don’t mean to come across as a smug know-it-all Nostradamus, or expert 20-20 hindsight revisionist. Please accept these as genuine concerns of mine as the year went on. Up until the Wales 6N match I actually thought our gritty gameplan would be tailor made for the WC knockout stages, but it seems the teams playing the most attractive rugby have gotten the most rewards so far (except Japan!)

    • Billy

       /  October 22, 2015

      Good points well made.

    • Billy

       /  October 22, 2015

      The Scotland 6N match really resonates for me – people talking about our expansive style when in reality Scotland didn’t show up, gave us the gainline and we were able to rip them apart. Except this time, we were in Scotland’s position. Any team can look good with an endless supply of quick ball.

    • curates_egg

       /  October 22, 2015

      Hard to disagree (but I always wonder if it is just down to my pessimism). The meeja has always glossed over flaws and weaknesses in the national set-up because they are part of the system and/or don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. That’s how the PR machine works. Even the blogs, a lot of which were set up to try and provide some balance to the uncritical mainstream media on Kidney, were sucked into the spin around Schmidt and his set up. That left almost no criticism (beyond cranks like Hook) and when any reasonable criticism was made (e.g. Matt Williams), the pack turned on them.

      Schmidt and co will definitely look at where they went wrong. But the media, traditional and new, should also maybe ask themselves a few questions. As you say, this result was 6 months in coming for those who watched the Ireland set up with a slightly critical eye…but you couldn’t have told that from the media.

      • Thing is – we disagreed with Schmidt’s selections and tactics in the past, but when you win games, its a losing trade to bang that drum. And we’d take issue with our raison d’etre being to bash Deccie – but we don’t think that’s what you meant.

        And re Williams, he took issue with Payne, and he was a huge loss last weekend. Wrong battle to pick, although his columns were much more measured and we enjoyed them immensely.

        • curates_egg

           /  October 22, 2015

          Williams took issue with our lack of back line play and offensive strategy in the 6 Nations and got grief over it ‘because we were winning’. He also did not take issue with Payne – that is a lazy narrative trotted out by the PR defense. He took issue with Payne’s role in the attack – and he was right – but he got the bum’s rush for that.

          I am obviously a huge Joe Schmidt fan but this trust Joe guff really grated on me over the past few months. You can’t use winning as an excuse to simply gloss over flaws…because then you ignore the flaws which make loss inevitable. We needed to develop our gameplan more and have a smarter selection policy to finally actually achieve something in the only tournament that counts. We failed on both fronts. For those that were pointing out these problems – even when we were winning – there is no joy in the chickens coming home to roost. However, the lack of a critical media environment surely only engendered complacency in the set up?

          4 years on from Deccie’s downfall (down to poor selection and failure to develop a more multi-layered gameplan) and 8 years on from EOS, we are standing in exactly the same place with the same pants around the same ankles. We failed again due to poor selection and the failure to develop a more multi-layered gameplan. It is groundhog day and we are all Bill Murray.

        • curates_egg

           /  October 22, 2015

          [embed width="123" height="456"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyBSrBqogPY[/embed]

    • Leinsterlion

       /  October 22, 2015

      agree pretty much with most of that.

  24. Draught Helping

     /  October 22, 2015

    Lads, Joe is a great coach we all know that but he has an inherent distrust of Irish players’ skills and ability on the international stage. He is bit like Trapatoni who completely distrusted Irish football players to do anythign that invovlved skill or thinking for themselves. Evidence is our limiited and basic gameplan since he took over and also his near paranoia that any of his top players woudl get injured in the warm up games – he certainly doesnt beleive in the skills of the players down the pecking order. Not saying he is right or wrong, just think this risk free rugby will fail at the highest level, just like our flops at Euro 2012. Limited gameplans get you so far up the mountain but you will never reach the summit with it.

    • D6W

       /  October 22, 2015

      Absolutely disagree, there is no evidence of this at all, and the contrary evidence is abundant if you look at how he had Leinster playing. M’OC on the other hand…

  25. My thesis:
    No Irish player broke into tears for Ireland’s call
    I had a bad feeling in my gut when I saw the Argentinians cry through theirs
    I acknowledge how difficult it is to break into tears with Ireland’s call, and perhaps I felt that we’d moved on from that now -Schmidt honed professionals playing with controlled aggression.
    No more need of emotional welly.
    We lost because of that song.

    • Billy

       /  October 22, 2015

      We save the tears for victories in pool deciders instead?

  26. jaybee965

     /  October 22, 2015

    On the general north v south (hemispheres) I think there is still a huge structural problem around the timing of the world cup – the SH teams have a full season of rugby, super rugby, then the rugby championship and then the world cup. The NH teams have a pre-season, some warm ups and are expected to hit the ground running against teams that are already in their stride. Its not just Healy and Sexton who are trying to play themselves into form in the world cup, its the whole team. Some players do better with this, some don’t. The SH teams don’t have that disadvantage. The slow starters have all got up to speed, the full season allows SH to see those who’s form has faded and to pick those who are in good form. The NH teams rely on warm ups and how things are going in training

    Some one asked how would BNZ have fared against Argentina without 5 starters like McCaw, Read, etc – I’s ask how would they do in a World Cup starting in March with only 4 warm up games under their belts?
    England are the exception that proves the rule – they managed it in 03 and that is a measure of the strength of that team with some all time greats but they did it despite not being at their best in the tournament – certainly they were nothing like as good as they had been in Feb/March and in June that year

    • Yossarian

       /  October 22, 2015

      That may be contributing factor but it is more down to the fact they are plain better and have a system to ensure international rugby comes ahead of club rugby. They moved the tri nations to ensure they played it just prior to world cup. Why didn’t the north do the same? never going to happen, 6 nations such a lucrative tournament they would never tamper with it.
      We claim to be “tired” when we tour down south in the summer, then we are not “match ready” when they do the same in November.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  October 22, 2015

        “We claim to be “tired” when we tour down south in the summer, then we are not “match ready” when they do the same in November.”

        Sums it up, if we had a global season I’d wager results wouldnt differ by much. Maybe the French could reasonably claim to be less flogged, other than that…Business as usual I suspect.

      • SportingBench

         /  October 22, 2015

        Moving the 6N in RWC years might go if it is moved to the end of the season>?

  27. Draught Helping

     /  October 22, 2015

    Joe was a different animal at Leinster though and seemed to trust his players a lot more than he does at international level which is a set up from Heino Cup. I presume he thought about the limited time he had with his players and made the judgement call to play low risk stuff at the start but i was hoping he would advance it a bit in the 16 weeks access he has had to the players this Summer. I reckon our players have the skills, they just need the gameplan and go ahead to implement them. Not buying the “5 injuries killed us” line either – we were worse against Italy when they were all fit and the French game must now be viewed thro the prism of the battering they took against NZ.

  28. *checks in on WoC comment section*

    *swathes of comments blaming Keith Earls for defensive system failures based on intangible and unfalsifiable claims*

    *checks out of WoC comment section*

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