Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: it's time for Ireland to get ready for the future
Rugby Analyst:While watching Old Crescent’s under-13s this week I started daydreaming about tomorrow’s match. I wondered what style is required to secure victory. Then three words came to mind: four more years.
The first time I heard (lip-read George Gregan) these words it was actually “four more years, boys” as Australia in Sydney defeated the All Blacks in the RWC 2003 semi-final by 12 points. Then President Barack Obama roared the words once more this week.
Three components: leadership, style and personnel come to mind. The autumn series has always been where we view the big three’s new game as it arrives reconditioned for the future, where visiting international coaches develop all three components.
As I continued sitting in the car park I wondered if we had four more years to prepare for the Springboks tomorrow what would we do?
I’ve voiced concerns regarding the erosion of our natural leadership and decision-making skills. I refer not to potential captains as we will always produce three or four each cycle, such as Jamie Heaslip, Jonathan Sexton and Peter O’Mahony.
It’s mind over body, or mind over enormous bodies. Have a coffee with an academy player and marvel at their physique. If you delve into their minds you will be blown away by their information on tactics, plays, and statistics. At times, the language of a pro can make one feel inadequate but what use is information without awareness of natural occurrences on the pitch and decisions therein?
Tailored programmes can enhance this process. We have four more years.
What comes first, leadership, style or personnel? The horrific difficulties in selection for Kidney this week are down to the fact Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Rory Best, Seán O’Brien and Stephen Ferris provide all three in spades. Rob Kearney’s absence at fullback, however, threatens the most.
Why Kearney? Because he is a natural leader and brilliant player through actions and words. But more importantly, he has two more World Cups in him. Whether we like it or not neither O’Driscoll nor O’Connell have. Their absence tomorrow is therefore less relevant come the Six Nations and beyond.
Had we four years preparation for tomorrow would Michael Bent be sitting on the Irish bench?
Judging by the style on show at Old Crescent there is little link between the national game and the under-13 game. Four years is a long time, long enough to torrent style down the ranks.
With both leadership and personnel in mind what style can Ireland bring tomorrow? Ironically, tomorrow’s team are potentially better suited to the new style. Take the secondrows, who, are by a country mile more suited to an expansive game . Mike McCarthy has been the best performing “rugby-playing” secondrow and both he and Donnacha Ryan are very comfortable with ball in hand, lines of running, making offensive hits and supporting the ball – not unlike Eben Etzebeth.
In tandem with this backrow there should be less negative affect from the loss of our traditional secondrow style. Both O’Mahony and Chris Henry are very combative on the deck (and everywhere else).
Even with Pat Lambie at 10 I don’t expect the South Africans to bring a hectic pace, which will suit our backrow, making them much more competitive and lessening further the absence of O’Connell (but not his lineout work).
Whichever secondrow packs down behind Mike Ross is of crucial importance to the scrum and the outcome of the fixture. I expect McCarthy will, which will lesson his field mobility a tad.
A real opportunity, considering the pace out wide, for Ireland (and at hooker with Richardt Strauss) is to generate multi-phase, pacey ball. It’ll be very interesting to see can Conor Murray get Keith Earls into space, quickly.
Finally. Who is best to bring us through the remainder of this four year cycle?
Regarding style over recent seasons, benchmarked against the six teams ahead of us and Wales in particular in the IRB world rankings, we have been the least open to change.
Right behind us stand Argentina, an enormous threat to our RWC 2015 ambitions. They have outshone Ireland in recent years and were extremely unlucky to only draw against South Africa a few weeks ago while playing a wonderful offloading rugby. Surely they have more challenges than us?
What are the lessons of June 23rd or was it all down to poor Portuguese Paddy Wallace, an absentee tomorrow?
Unfortunately we don’t have four more year to prepare but I can’t wait for tomorrow.