Expert view: Did we underperform?

 

The experts give their views on the World Cup performance by Ireland

Bob Casey

Was reaching the quarter-final a reasonable achievement or did Ireland underperform?

It was a reasonable achievement based on pre-tournament form but the victory over Australia distorted expectations appreciably and meant that losing in the quarter-finals will be viewed as underperforming. I know from talking to players that they were devastated by the defeat to Wales and some took it very badly. That in itself illustrates the mindset. They viewed it as a great opportunity. No critique will hurt more than their self-appraisal.

What might have been done differently to propel Ireland into the last four or beyond?

To my knowledge, Ireland don’t employ a psychologist and I think there were over-aroused by the circumstances. What I mean is that some of the players would have put themselves under huge pressure – rather than external influences – aware that the quarter-final represented a final opportunity in that particular tournament. They chased the game too early, didn’t execute the simple things well, and I think the pressure manifests itself in mistakes.

What, if anything, needs to be done in the short to medium term to derive benefit from RWC 2011?

My attitude is that the IRFU must give Declan Kidney carte blanche to blood players as he sees fit in the upcoming Six Nations Championship and also look to regenerate the squad during the summer tour to New Zealand. There are aspects of Ireland’s game plan that need tweaking, to provide greater variety in attack, and also that decisions are made with regard to a player’s best position.

Liam Toland

Was reaching the quarter-final a reasonable achievement or did Ireland underperform?

We played five matches winning four which is excellent. For many years Leinster prided themselves on topping their pool in the Heineken Cup before losing in the quarters but they discovered how to win and their ambition grew. Ireland must assume the same ambition and believe that with the right skills coaches, development and ambition much more is possible. Reasonable achievement alright but the 12-point losing margin against Wales was far too big.

What might have been done differently to propel Ireland into the last four or beyond?

We have a tendency to plan for the immediate match which dictates our tactical policy and selection and hinders growth towards the last four. Very little could have been done on the weekend as the team played as best they could albeit with less intensity and tactical awareness than expected. The journey must start much further out; how do we want to play? Is it high on intensity which is not always guaranteed; the Munster or Leinster way or a hybrid of both?

What, if anything, needs to be done in the short to medium term to derive benefit from RWC 2011?

Keep the main goal out front and rugby style and team selection will follow. Although huge strides have been made at youths and schoolboy level over the past number of years in terms of organisation and development through the academies, there is some distance to travel in the technical aspects of the game. So a serious continuity/attack coach is required as a bare minimum at the top level along with quality coaching in the schools/youths.

Matt Williams

Was reaching the quarter-final a reasonable achievement or did Ireland underperform?

As tough as it is to write, it was a failure. The provinces aspire to win both the RaboDirect Pro12 and the Heineken Cup. We expect a performance and we get it. Provincially we are the dominant rugby country in the Northern Hemisphere, equal to France, yet internationally we do not aspire to the same level as France. Irish rugby’s standards have risen dramatically in the past decade yet people still feel a RWC quarter-final is an acceptable outcome.

What might have been done differently to propel Ireland into the last four or beyond?

Why did several players have a bad day against Wales? Ireland were in great physical shape. They were confident. The nation was united behind them. Yet they did not perform. Why? Some aspect of their mental preparation was wrong. The mindset of the players was the issue, not the bodies. Search for and recruit a world-class coach of mental skills. Give him time with the players over three to four years.

What, if anything, needs to be done in the short to medium term to derive benefit from RWC 2011?

Why do Australia perform so well at almost every World Cup? They make it the number one priority for the national team for 36 months. We have struggled to consistently select a starting nine and 10 for two years. With the exception of one game in November, we rarely give outside players a chance so we can not reward performance because they do not get a chance to play. A major priority should be to win a game in the Southern Hemisphere.