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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 13, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    There may be trouble ahead…

    Carl O'Malley

    For the first time ever, I think, I spent 80 minutes with my back to an Ireland rugby match, occasionally glancing over my shoulder when the crowd at Lansdowne Road raised the volume above a murmur.

    I say crowd, but congregation might be a more appropriate description for the gathering, each one of them no doubt praying for entertainment on a dreary afternoon.

    Their pleas went unanswered.

    If you were one of those who paid for the privilege today, you could not be happy. I heard of 50 kids who were given free tickets yesterday after their chaperone initially refused a request for a tenner a head from the IRFU. He then dismissed the notion of a fiver per child and eventually got them couriered to his door for free. Even he must feel robbed this afternoon.

    It seems around 8,000 ticketholders saw it coming because official figures claimed 38,000 were sold but only around 30,000 seats were filled. They may well be having second thoughts about next week too, because on this evidence, things could get real ugly.

    In the commentary box, Tony Ward was baffled by an abject performance and gave his man-of-the-match award to the beaten and visiting scrumhalf.

    Needless to say George Hook was as disparaging as ever at halftime and fulltime. Hooky can be a tiresome troll at times, but one couldn’t argue with him today, and neither Brent nor Conor tried.

    The low-point of the game, in which Ireland were bullied for long periods, came when Stephen Ferris, brought on to steady the ship, hit the deck all too readily after getting a tame enough forearm in the face from David Lemi.

    In terms of who made a case for inclusion against New Zealand next week, Devin Toner did his job at the lineout but twice he and/or his lifters misjudged restarts.

    Seán Cronin looked good in the loose but the frontrow was decimated regularly, though Tom Court and John Hayes are really the ones with questions to answer there.

    Paddy Wallace will not be starting against the All Blacks because he offers nothing like the physicality Gordon D’Arcy does and the latter’s defence will be imperative against the number one team in the world.

    There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then because, as Hooky so rightly pointed out from his pulpit, Samoa are ranked 11th in the world. New Zealand, they ain’t.

    • orieldude says:

      So proof positive, then, that the wonderful Irish rugby public are, for the most part, the flakey event junkies I always suspected them to be.

      There are many pseuds I could quote from after a certain match a couple of years ago. But seeing as this is the IT, I’ll quote the following Monday’s Irish Independent editorial: “Last Saturday the Irish team took centre stage again, this time against world champions England. And Ireland, as a nation, took one small step in its history, one giant leap in maturity. It truly was one hell of a spectacle.”

      That nonsense was objectionable enough at the time, watching the ‘fans’ melt away now when the team are misfiring and pleading for their support (and blaming the red herring of ticket prices in the process) makes me cringe at the memory of the explosion of guff following that match.

      Doubtless next weekend’s meaningless encounter against a team mostly made up the descendants of white settlers performing the conquered natives’ little wardance will be bigged up accordingly and the event junkies will get their little day out.

    • Bill Tormey says:

      The Samoa game was my third visit to the rebuilt stadium at Lansdowne. The design of the stadium is not conducive to mobility and meeting friends or acquaintances. Many of the stewards are officious prigs. There is a tutonic overregulation apparent and the idiots in yellow jackets massing on the touchline and aggressively eyeing the “crowd” at the end of the game sums up the general attitude to supporters. There is a national DEPRESSION going on out there. The IRFU have insulted their supporters in the clubs and I am one of those. The stadium must have been designed for Africa because I was again drowned in my 10-year stand seat. My son was sent to Ballsbridge to get to Sandymount after the game by a bunch of muppets in yellow. At least he and his pal did not get wet in the west stand.

      There had better be some changes in the attitude of the stewards or a life-times support and attendance may have to be reassessed.

      The Samoans were efficient and good. They do not deserve to be patronised. The ref link provided the key to some of the scrum nonsense. Count the number of seconds between the crouch, touch, pause, engage orders of the referee. It must have been the longest I ever heard. Pearson at Murrayfield was also taking things very slowly so maybe this is the IRB again.

      It the team does not get quick ball and good possession, how does anyone think that they can play well?

      The events at most rugby matches at Croke Park were spectacular – the newspapers were not exaggerating. It was a truly wonderful experience.

      The IRFU better be careful not to follow the SRU down the plughole. It is better to fill the stadium and respect the supporters than to have a small select group of witnesses to a sad event. It seems the Irish middle classes are now price sensitive.

    • Niall in Hangzhou, China says:

      If there was ever a game to suggest the Golden Era of Irish is firmly over it was the Samoa match. Bye bye Ireland, hello England! Will Declan Kidney be leading the team to New Zealand?

    • invictus says:

      Well done Oreildude! you should be so proud. Your obvious disrespect of not only the Irish rugby public, and the players who represent them, but your sleight on other sovereign nations and mocking their sucess while sleighting their history shows how pathetic a view you have on history & sport as a spectacle and beacon to follow in the tough times that we all nations face today. Ignorance in your case is indeed bliss. You might consider going and lying down in a dark place and enjoy your own company I know the rest of us slighltly more positive and open minded folks wont miss your senseless views too much.

    • Robespierre says:

      Invictus, I think you do Orieldude a disservice. He is perfectly entitled to his view and he is absolutely correct that the coverage of triple crowns, especially the win against England in 2006, was wildly over the top.

      There can be little surprise about where we find ourselves now. We have to adapt our game and while we are doing this we are not playing particularly well. We also have a changing of the guard in some key positions that we often struggle to fill like second row and tight head. This is a question of physiognomy as much as anything else.

      Like with the soccer team during the early 90s there are floating fans that follow the national team and their are rugby fans who are true the team and the wonderful tradition of the game. That will never change.

    • dealga says:

      Thank you indeed invictus, all bluster and no argument, the forté of the Johnny Come Lately fairweather fan rugby has had the misfortune to attract.

      But I enjoyed your rant, and on behalf of ‘all nations in tough times’ too, which makes it extra special.

    • dealga/orieldude says:

      Ah (don’t bounce proper) balls…

    • fem/me says:

      Guys…THEY WON….sometimes it’s ugly…particularly in rugby (no offence chaps!) Focus on what matters…!

    • A Magee says:

      For bod’s sake

    • John B. Reid says:

      A major weakness in our forward play is the fact that our forwards are not coached sufficiently (at Senior International or under-age level) to off-load the ball in the tackle nor to run proper support lines in order to receive an off-loaded ball from the ball-carrier. This means that Ireland cannot play a true continuity game. By lacking this mentality and skill, we are putting ourselves at a major disadvantage when endeavouring to break down the teak-tough defences of opposition such as the Tri-Nations and France. We are also hindering our ability to play rugby on the front foot, in order to break the advantage line against these top quality opponents. A major reason, for example, why the New Zealand team are so devastating, is their determination to break the advantage line with almost every carry of the ball. The snowball effect of this is that they can continue to recycle or off-load the ball more quickly, at the same time as the opposition defence is back-pedaling and attempting to re-align.

    • paul m says:

      i think the line out was a slight step up from last week. we did have the option of toner or heaslip and it paid off. Toners steal was well timed and hope to see him gain confidence to really start to disrupt oppositon lineout.

      One thing i cant fathom is how the ball rarely makes it wide to our runners. There is still an insistance of the centre pairing to try to break the line, yet not attempt an offload. Against the top teams this is nigh on impossible unless you have multiple decoy runners on the move and even then most teams have perfected the two on one smother tackle to keep the ball from being released.

      Also our offload in the tackle is well below what it needs to be to keep the phases going effectively and break the line. We see it a lot more at provinical level but there seems to be a lack of confidence in using it in the national team. We cant be expected to make any sort of inroads to a broken defence if we cant offload in the tackle and keep the play split. If we hit the deck, the groundball specialist flankers that South Africa, Australia, New Zealand all possess will either steal it, or hold it up so their defence is realigned and its then its back to square one with the attritional phases that sap energy and gain very few yards against what are very well built teams

      We need to play to our strengths. we have a light but fast backline that once moving off set pieces is a nightmare to track (especially bowe or fitzgerald coming through) so more moves akin the sexton 12/13 loop pass we’ve seen cut open defences at leinster please. Iineout and maul is a key strength we need to regain, it sucks in their defenders and gives our backs the platform to go for set pieces. Forget the scrum and try for anything but the scrum inside our own half if we can avoid it. Less kicking unless its to find touch deep in opposition territory or the weather is awful and its a huge up and under to test the fullback. We just cant seem to contain the return run that comes at us especially with a broken field of players strewn around the field that depend on our runner bringing them back into play.

      now more than ever an o’gara / sexton game management is required to pin new zealand back in the first half of the game and play more of the opportunities for them to drop into the pocket inside kiwi territory and take the 3 points. the more we ratchet up the easy kicking scores the more they are kicking into us on the restart. hopefully out of that a try or two will come.

      I reckon the lads have a big play in them similar to what england put out against australia, lets hope its for this weekend. c’mon Ireland!

    • TIM says:

      So thankfully the sporting bore that is Irish Rugby is ending its love affair with the Irish public. It’s a sport most of the people in this country have never taken to and now with this dreadful Irish team never will. Says alot when the FAI cup final between two Airtricity league teams gets over six thousand more for their game. Six losses in-a-row and now this laboured win against one of the rugby world’s worst teams. RUGBY IN IRELAND NOBODY CARES AND LIKE THE CELTIC TIGER IT’S DEAD, AND THANKFULLY SO,

    • Larry says:

      @TIM, factually incorrect and wrong! Its a sport for communities of people across the whole 32 counties have taken to and love, for years. Its nothing to do with Celtic Tigers. If you dont like the sport you dont have to kick the national team when they are down and try to say “Football is better”…. Bland argument, they are different sports. One FAI borefest with teams that cant kick a penalty proves nothing. Interesting you pick out that one game, where tickets were sold a good price. Now look at a full stadium for Leinster Munster, See Connaught beating Samoa, tonight Munster with few internationals left taking on Australia,look at Croke Park full for Internationals and tell me Ireland does not love its team! Watch Leinsters home game against Clermont, that will probably have more than the match you mention at the weekend.
      Please don’t confuse an ignorant IRFU pricing policy, with irish people neglecting their team.
      I agree with Dealga earlier in terms of the overblown coverage of 6 nations etc in the past, balance is good in these things.
      But Tim your point makes no sense at all and to draw a comparison to FAI is poor, how many people turn out to club games here… look at Bohemians second in league and facing bankruptcy a league torn apart by constant discord. The fact is the Irish soccer fan supports the premiership end of story, they do not support local teams and dont have too much to shout about unfortunately with the national team right now. But i hope that will change soon again.
      Its the same in all sport when the national team is great, the corporates kick in and the normal supporter cant get a seat. But I like many will still support our national team and club/provincial level rugby in Ireland.

    • Larry says:

      Hey Tim, please tell me you saw the match between Munster and Australia last night! Horrific weather great turn out!
      Me thinks there is still a large squad in Ireland loving this sport. Good Luck to Ireland in the football tonight.


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