Clohessy has let us all down
RUGBY is a very physical game and most people who have played it have been guilty of doing things they wouldn't boast about afterwards. I don't claim to be any exception in this regard. However the announcement that Peter Clohessy has been suspended is not surprising after what the camera showed us on Saturday.
What Clohessy did was unacceptable, inexcusable and indefensible by any standards and we can only be thankful that no serious injury has resulted. Apart from letting the Irish side down, it will come as a particular blow to those in coaching administration and the press and his many supporters - including members of the Young Munster club - who have defended him in the past.
On general play Clohessy was by far the best of the front row. However, he has left the IRFU and the team management with little alternative as to his future. It is a terrible pity that he will now always be remembered for the negative rather than the positive side of his game.
As for the match itself, the team selection for the match against France on Saturday was widely welcomed. Some commentators described it as the most honest selection for a long, long time.
This team, with the exception of Geogheghan and possibly Halvey through injury, must be very close to the best available.
We have also heard that whatever the management and players have asked for has been provided in recent times. The conclusion we have to draw therefore is that we are simply not good enough to compete at this level. This, however, is too simplistic an approach. A more appropriate question is: How did we get into this situation?
The answer, I suggest, is that the people responsible for the game in Ireland, namely the IRFU have failed in their stewardship of the game. There is little point in having millions in the bank and planning a major new stadium while the national side continues to decline.
A few years ago Amnesty International organised a fund raiser in the form of a public debate in the Royal College of Surgeons. The topic was: "Is there a crisis in Irish rugby?" or something to that effect. To the best of my knowledge the IRFU chose not to send a speaker. Perhaps the time has come for them to organise such a debate themselves.
Look how few former internationals are actively involved in the game. The reason is that the committee system is so cumbersome and time consuming that it discourages rather then encourages involvement. The IRFU should, I suggest, organise an annual convention as in other sporting organisations which would allow views to be aired.
Committees should also be elected at these conventions which would have the benefit of making the committee more identifiable to and more answerable to, the rugby population. The days preceding a home international would be ideal, involving little extra cost.
The schools and clubs do their part in producing underage players. One of the issues to be investigated is the decline of so many of these players afterwards. The problem is what happens to these players later on.
Turning to the match on Saturday, we knew beforehand that we had to upset the French right from the start: "We did so for about two minutes until David Humphreys' drop goal attempt. After that the French ran the game as they liked. To have had any chance we needed to be precise, disciplined and clever. We were none of these. The line outs should have been a fertile area, but, particularly at the beginning, we failed to establish control.
Terry Kingston had a bad day with his throwing which did not help matters. When you try line out variations, as we did, if they don't go right the opposition gains a huge advantage. I was surprised that we decided to break up the line out considering that we had more Jumpers. We also gave away some silly penalties and made a lot of unforced errors. Nick Popplewell showed all the signs of a player who has not played serious rugby for several months.
The most embarrassing moments that I recall, both involved the back line. The first time we tried to move the ball, our midfield collided and the ball went into "no man's land." The second was when we won a ruck near the French line towards the end of the first half and again it finished behind the back line, this time directly from Niall Hogan. The scrum half's passing was bad all through the game, being both slow and inaccurate. He was, however, one of Ireland's most industrious performers.
Accuracy is something we can take a lesson in from the Scots. Think over the years how good their hookers have been at throwing the ball in and what good passers they have had at serum half. We must get the basics right before we can expect to progress. When you have limited resources at your disposal you have to maximise them and bad basics make this impossible.
David Humphreys did well in difficult circumstances. He has the potential to be a very important part of Ireland's future. Victor Costello proved that his selection was justified and that number eight is his natural position. We expected him to run well with the ball in his hand - which he did but I thought his defensive work was better than he has been given credit for.
David Corkery's best position must surely be blind side. He hits hard but does not read the game sufficiently well at this level for the number seven position.
In previous defeats of similar proportions, tackling has "been seen as the main reason for defeat. This was not the case on Saturday. A number of the French tries were scored without missed tackles because we were not even near enough to attempt a tackle.
Murray Kidd has always impressed me with his organisation and discipline. Everybody has been full of praise for his training sessions, yet the team has, on both occasions, looked disorganised and indisciplined. There is definitely a lack of leadership in the side. We called back row moves when the French back row was standing off, waiting for us.
We did not use the indirect penalties with any speed and direction when it mattered and we never got our defence organised.
The referee's performance has to be mentioned. It didn't really effect the result but it was, nevertheless, quite dreadful. Every referee now seems to have a different interpretation of the laws applying in the rucks and mauls.
Although Wales have lost their matches against England and Scotland they are far happier with themselves at this stage. The match next Saturday week will be for the wooden spoon.
Team selection is not going to be easy. With Staples out we must find a new full back; Geogheghan, hopefully, will be fit; the midfield defence must be sorted out, Saverimutto's passing or Hogan's industry; the balance of the back row and second row and most crucially now that Clohessy is gone, do we risk an inexperienced front row?