Unimpressive Ireland gazing into the abyss – and the abyss is All Black

If the Irish pack are the same soft proposition in tomorrow’s game, they will be torn apart

Gordon D’Arcy is greatly underestimated in Irish rugby. It is only when he is absent that people see his real value. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Gordon D’Arcy is greatly underestimated in Irish rugby. It is only when he is absent that people see his real value. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Sat, Nov 23, 2013, 12:01

Approaching the summit of Mount Everest, Edmund Hillary, the great New Zealand mountaineer, famously confronted a staggering challenge. An impassable rock overhang blocked the path. The rock jutted out of the mountain, forcing any climber who wished to pass to climb and hang by their fingers, over a deadly abyss. No human had ever seen this barrier before.

It is legend that Hillary used his brilliant technical climbing skills to defy death and overcome what seemed impossible. He literally jumped off Mount Everest. He grabbed hold of the rock face above his head and climbed over the yawning drop.

The section of Mount Everest is named “The Hillary Step”. It was as much a leap of courage as it was a physical jump. Hillary discovered that, “When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you”.

The abyss looked into Hillary and it ignited his magnificent spirit.

Rarely in the life of a rugby player does the opportunity arise to look into a sporting “abyss” – to meet a challenge of such huge proportions, that the world gives you no chance of success.

Tomorrow, Ireland have such a chance. As the abyss glares coldly back into their soul, the imminent defeat must spark fight in the men in green. The greatest enemy must be the ultimate motivation.

Sparkling diamond
To an athlete these days are wonderful gifts. In rugby terms, the New Zealand national XV are “the abyss”.

When you play them, you face the statistical probability of a thumping. They are the best team on the planet, playing magical rugby. They are ferociously proud competitors. The actions of the throat -slitting haka symbolise how they play. They are ruthless.

Their play is violently confronting. Remember Tana Umaga taking out Brian O’Driscoll. That’s how they roll in New Zealand.

To defeat the monster that is New Zealand you have to be as ruthless, as driven, and as physically confrontational as them. Don’t take a knife to a gun fight. Over more than a century, as a rugby nation, Ireland have been intimidated by the Kiwis. I hope it stops tomorrow, but I doubt it.

Added to that history, last week Ireland were as poor as I have seen them.

The performance of the forwards was below acceptable standards. At scrum time the locks forgot their responsibility to their front row. Watching a seven-man Australian pack explode an Irish scrum tells you more about Irish attitudes than technique.

Australia had 10 players in the lineout before the driving maul that led to an embarrassing try. Ireland should not have been taken by surprise that a maul was coming. Unbelievably, the desperation and technique required to stop the Wallaby maul was not evident.

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