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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 22, 2010 @ 11:12 am

    Bruising encounters don’t bode well for future

    Paul Gallagher

    Dread to think how rugby’s leading lights will fare in the decades to come after they put their bodies on the line time and time again as the modern game demands more and more physical intensity with each passing season.

    Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald clashes in mid air with New Zealand's Mils Muliaina. Rory Best with a fractured cheekbone after the game and Brian O'Driscoll gathers the ball and gets past Hika Elliot. (Photographs: Inpho)

    Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald clashes in mid air with New Zealand's Mils Muliaina. Rory Best with a fractured cheekbone after the game and Brian O'Driscoll gathers the ball and gets past Hika Elliot. (Photographs: Inpho)

    Last weekend’s date with the fearsome All Blacks was a ferocious encounter with Irish management counting the cost of the home troops giving it their all for the cause against what, ultimately, is always going to be a superior force, at least when facing the might of the Kiwis.

    A further update on the walking wounded will be known tomorrow. But what is already certain is Luke Fitzgerald, Rory Best and Rob Kearney all came off worse for wear and the trio are ruled out of Sunday’s final autumn series meeting with Argentina.

    Fitzgerald sustained medial ligament damage to the left knee, though it’s a different knee injury to the one which kept him for most of the year. Best suffered a fractured cheekbone and will operated on today and both will be sidelined for at least six weeks.

    Kearney should find out the extent of cartilage damage after surgery later this week, which obviously keeps him out of the Pumas encounter.

    Ireland’s talisman and captain, Brian O’Driscoll, epitomises all that is good about the modern game in these parts. What the Leinster centre achieves on the pitch is nothing short of extraordinary as every time he takes his talent and bravery to the very limit. 

    A bruising of the shoulder was the latest injury sustained from the All Blacks game, which will seem little more than a scuff, considering BOD is teak-tough and renowned for his quick healing.

    Of greater concern, however, is finding out how these warriors will hold up in the long term as the body must surely feel the effects of such bruising bust-ups later in life. There has to be pay back time and the only hope is these guys get to enjoy pain-free, more leisurely days after the time comes to hang up the boots.

    • john curley says:

      amen to that

    • cjg says:

      how many from the New Zealand and Pacific Islanders team are on the injury list?

    • Hi CJG,

      It appears lock Tom Donnelly is the main casualty from the All Blacks’ win over Ireland – a knee injury will rule him out their final game against Wales.

      Brad Thorn is set to replace Donnelly in Cardiff, assuming he has recovered from his hamstring injury. Keven Mealamu is also set to feature after serving his reduced two-week ban.

      On another note, came across an interesting article by Jack Anderson regarding injury concerns in rugby and specifically the danger of concussion. (see link below).

      Concussion cases could easily be a strike against the head in court
      Jack Anderson lectures in law at Queen’s University Belfast and has recently published ‘Modern Sports Law’

    • John B. Reid says:

      New Zealand have always played with impressive physicality. This is simply a measure of how much victory means to them as a rugby nation. A minority of fatalist tut-tutters in Ireland, year-in-year-out, get up on their high horses and moan about the bruising nature of the game, as if it were something new!!

      This moaning and tut-tutting does not help to develop our ability to win matches against serious, quality rugby nations.

      The game of rugby has always been hugely physical, this is why it is such a great, rewarding and character-building sport, for both young boys and men. God forbid that it should ever change.

      Nowadays however, the side-effects of the tough nature of the game are compensated considerably by much-improved conditioning and physical and mental preparation. This leaves players better prepared to cope and withstand the physical nature of the game.

      Risk in rugby will never be eliminated entirely. If it were, rugby would cease to be a game worth playing. Indeed, for anything worthwhile in life, you have to take a risk. It will, however, not be known to cursory observers with little knowledge of the game, but it is entirely possible to minimise risk in rugby for amateur, as well as professional, players of the game by (in addition to adequate conditioning) coaching participants to employ the optimum body position in the contact area.

      Modern, civilised society should count itself fortunate to have a sport such as Rugby. In previous centuries and millenia, the competitive and physio-psychological needs and outlets of populations were served by War with swords and cannon. For centuries, for example, recreation and spectacle consisted of jousting men on horseback, killing each other with lances. Dueling with swords or pistols was also an acceptable social need. Otto von Bismarck always claimed that his proudest mark of honour was the scar he received after winning a duel at University.

      Games such as soccer have failed to satisfy these intrinsic needs. That is a reason why soccer fans have to be separated by fences on match-day, because their physio-psychological needs cannot be satisfied by the players (complete with their Jedward hairstyles, waxed-bodies and general androgyny) on the pitch. As the great former Leinster coach, Matt Williams, astutely and pithily put it regarding the difference between rugby and soccer: “For over a century the discipline of physical confrontation on the field (in rugby) has led to personal discipline and respect off it”.

      God forbid that modern society should ever lose the discipline of controlled physical confrontation that is rugby.

    • sendero says:

      The injury list is not surprising – despite the improvements in physical conditioning and coaching that professionalism has brought, the Irish players still seem to lack the necessary nous to use their talents to their best. Attempts at “flashes of brilliance” very often result in physical injury through overdoing things on an individual basis. Rugby is a team game and unlike Munster and Leinster the Irish team members of late have not convinced me that they are playing for each other. And Ireland suffers, too, from having a small pool of players – the result? Some of them know they are always going to be first-choice “picks” and behave accordingly on the field. Every New Zealand player knows his next “cap” depends on his giving his all in the current game, both in terms of physicality and of playing “with his head up”. I don’t see that with Ireland.

    • Donal O'Flynn says:

      Tiocfaidh ár lá…Irish rugby continues to improve in grace and strength – especially over the last decade. The huge (and) growing interst in Heinekin Cup as well as our Irish team’s performance on the international rugby scene – continues to instill pride and admiration and ensure match attendance from patrons of other sporting disciplines (like myself). Our rugby players are appreciative of this, give it their all and leave everything on the field. I have rarely been disappointed with their efforts. They are just not quite there yet against some southern hemisphere teams, on some occasions but not for want of trying. Coaching, Management, Belief, are key and they are making great progress in these areas. Watch this space…

    • rory says:

      Nice one sendero, after a lecture I might have heard 30 years ago from B Reid. How is that I can happily support Leinster but feel nothing for the Irish rugby team – well now I know. The Irish game places too much reliance on the physical so if players get bashed up then they only have themselves to blame.

    • Larry says:

      @rory,I don’t understand your point, I did not hear the lecture.. I don’t understand either how you can support a province and not your country. It is great to see a province represented within the Irish team but greater to see our best play together. I don’t like the “Shoulder to Shoulder” PC song we deliver before games, NZ have a Hakka and we offer a rendition of Irelands call. Apart from that I enjoy all that is irish about our rugby at provincial and National level.
      @sendero “Some of them know they are always going to be first-choice “picks” and behave accordingly on the field” are seriously suggesting that key players dont commit because they feel they will get their game. If you do I would like you to point them out to me because i dont see that. BOD could coast and play for his slot, but yet time and agin he lays his body out. There are no senior players there in position to coast.Some players are more injury prone, but it does not mean they try harder than others.and I dont see anyone hiding. there is the issue of a small player pool because we are a small country. But this is being increased by H cup success and experience.
      The physical level of NZ has always been there it is an expectation level and cultural mental belief. look back at old NZ teams and see that too. I dont think it is the Cap threat as you say but pride and inate ability and exposure to playing levels.
      The game is getting faster a rule change leads to a need to become accustomed to what is going to win games. a year a go it was a horrible kick fest now at least we are seeing the emergence of some great rugby, though a bit league’ish. NZ have adapted the quickest in the world as always. The rule changes need to be minimised to help reduce injury.
      But overall I believe that Injuries will increase as contact professional sports have proven that with increased size speed and bulk, joints and ligaments will suffer badly, along with the concussion issue this important to attracting new players into the sport.

    • Cheesy Snacks says:

      Its been well documented that this NZ team do more long distance running that any other national side. As opposed to previous All Black side that were may have had more bulk, this new lean team seems ideally suited to the modern game.

      So even if we do play our own stlye as Kidney has repeated again and again. There is no reason not to match them on this level of fitness. The Irish rugby team are a tremendous group of athletes who would have no problem acheiving this level of fitness.

      Obviously we will still have to play to our strenghts and do this in our own style. But at this level there is really no excuse not to match the All Blacks fitness level.

      If we can match them physically, we should get a grand slam in 6N and do very well at the world cup.

      Why the hell not Declan?

    • rory says:

      @ Larry – I was actually commenting on the lack of imagination in the Irish team. The national queston has nothing to do with it.

    • Gremlin says:

      Injuries on the International rugby field are not new and not specific only to the professional rugby player who at least has the satisfaction of a more than comfortable salary and after-care associated with their IRFU contract. I know of countless number of ‘amatuer day’ International Rugby players who literally gave their bodies for nothing except the enormous pride in playing for Ireland. No contracts and no private health care to fall back on when as is the case in most instances the body eventually breaks down. The IRFU need to look after ALL their international players health no matter what era!

    • Jack Hilton says:

      @John B. Reid
      I am a big rugby fan as well. In New Zealand – violent outbreaks (bar brawls etc) are quite common when the All Blacks lose. I haven’t ever seen that happen in Ireland. My own assumptions being that rugby is the peoples game in NZ. In Ireland it is a growing sport but still preserve a minority.

    • one can argue that it can go both ways

    • orieldude says:

      John B. Reid’s post is a piss take, surely?…

      If I wanted to take the mickey I pretty much would have written what he wrote – the glorification of ‘battles’ and ‘warriors’ and all the other pseudo guff.

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