Interaction with the clubs must be part of Ireland’s new grand plan

While David Nucifora may be concentrating on the game’s elite, the clubs’ participation must be fostered

 Munster’s Dave Foley tackles Jonny Gray of Glasgow Warriors. The homeide’s performance was miles off the intensity required. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Munster’s Dave Foley tackles Jonny Gray of Glasgow Warriors. The homeide’s performance was miles off the intensity required. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho


You look surprised, Blackadder.”

“I certainly am, sir. I didn’t realise we had any battle plans.”

“Well, of course we have! How else do you think the battles are directed?”

“Our battles are directed, sir?”

“Well, of course they are, Blackadder, directed according to the Grand Plan.”

“Would that be the plan to continue with total slaughter until everyone’s dead except Field Marshal Haig, Lady Haig and their tortoise, Alan?”

To which, General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett VC DSO, tiring of Blackadder’s insubordination finally gasps in horror:

“Great Scott! Even you know it!”

How did we ever get this far without plans! What a welcome announcement by the IRFU that David Nucifora is their new Performance Director for the next five years. Chief of Nucifora’s tasks is responsibility for planning and evaluation. Beyond that, his remit appears to cover nearly every aspect of the elite game, male and female.

However, much of this Performance Director role centres on the elite game such as Elite Player Development Pathway and Professional Coach Development and succession planning. Where does the club game rest in this mix? Does Nucifora’s role extend into the breeding ground for these future elites (both players & coaches)?

I for one would love to build a strategic plan around my local club that could dovetail into his, thereby affording buy in and a mutually inclusive union all pointing in one way, but with participation at its uppermost.

Away victory
Meanwhile Perpignan entertain Toulon in the Top 14 tomorrow. Toulon have eight days to prepare for Munster’s visit with limited travelling so they may wish to select strong in order to jump over Montpellier who are currently top of the French division.

Coming out of Thomond Park last Saturday my mind drifted towards Marseille. Munster’s performance over Glasgow would not focus your mind on an away victory. It was miles off the intensity but worryingly miles off the quality.

Second string sides often give a more accurate insight into the quality and standards in the ‘franchise’. But was it really second string? The entire starting backline would certainly fancy their chances of starting on merit, ditto the bulk of the pack. Of the 15 starters, 11 would be considered first team.

Either way it was disappointing to see the home side struggle to gain consistent error free footholds in the red zone. The numbers point to a reasonable performance but maintaining just 25% possession throughout is worrying. Worse is the 23 turnovers compared to Glasgow’s 13.

Those turnovers, combined with referee Wayne Barnes, bring next week’s breakdown challenge to the fore, which I’ll discuss next week. This week it is JJ Hanrahan’s groin!

It will impact in two ways; firstly having only one outhalf in the match day squad, which is precarious; but secondly, the lack of tactical alternatives is worse.

Finally, as the various TV deals involving the GAA, RWC and ERC or ERCC indicate, rugby and GAA have experienced an explosion of interest in recent years. Tweeting, blogs, newspaper, magazines, TV and radio now prove reams of opinion and fact.

With this in mind I wonder how the masses have evolved over time. In 1995 I played for Munster against Leinster in Thomond Park with maybe at best 1,000 supporters who were passionate and typically drawn from the clubs and families that provided the players on show. They were educated in the sport before they arrived into Thomond Park.

Now Croke Park and the Aviva are being filled by loyal supporters. Like many elite players the supporters have learned how to bypass the club and go straight to the elite ranks where their team is a provincial one.

If many of these fervent supporters haven’t been directly linked to their club or the domestic game where are they educating themselves? Where once upon a time the rugby or GAA fan had but one option he/she is now inundated by opinions and, having invested hugely in their team, are generally not satisfied by banal platitudes.

The challenge for the BBC – who garner multimillion viewers for their Six Nations transmissions – is different to the balance for Sky, whose Heineken Cup coverage attracts a fraction of that audience.

Hence the BBC are catering for not just to the avid fan but also to casual rugby watchers who only visit when the Six Nations comes around.

With Sky’s entry into the holy grail of Championship hurling and football and TV3 into the market for RWC2015 I wonder what the punter really wants? Is it entertainment, is it analysis, is it gentle instruction, is it controversy, is it a circus or is it a combination of all?

What would be Melchett’s grand plan?

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