Rugby World Cup TV View: Meaty thrusts fail to satisfy Eddie
‘It was just a terrible performance lads, let’s call it what it is,’ former Ireland coach says
Ireland fans celebrate winning in Kobe. Photograph: Jayne Russell/Inpho
There were times in that second half when Donal Lenihan was so down in the dumps he tried to lift his spirits by playing a game of spot-the-look-a-likies, reckoning Luke McGrath was similar to a Cocker Spaniel and Russia’s Andrey Ostrikov akin to “Christy Moore in his hey-day”. If Joxer had gone to Kobe, though, Donal would have insisted he deserved a refund, so unimpressed was he by our lads’ 35-0 bonus point win.
If that seemed harsh it was a feeling largely shared by all our pundits, even Jamie Heaslip for a nano second - “if they continue to play to that kind of level I don’t know if they’ll proceed past the quarter-finals” - before he reverted to positivity, “learnings”, “work-ons” and the like. But Daire O’Brien had kind of set the tone pre-match by suggesting that even if Ireland pulverised Russia it wouldn’t raise the optimism levels ahead of a potential quarter-final meeting with New Zealand or South Africa. “It’s like going in for a hernia operation when you know there’s a heart transplant two weeks away,” as he put it.
The main team news was that Conor Murray had replaced the-still-injured Joey Carbery on the bench and Brent Pope had come in for Stephen Ferris, taking over the effort to form a buffer between Jamie and Eddie O’Sullivan.
It was, our commentary team told us, quite sticky under the roof of the Kobe Misaki Stadium, Hugh Cahill labelling it a “human sweat box” and revealing that himself and Donal had to change their shirts four times since arriving. Russia might have had to change their pants when Rob Kearney opened the scoring after just 90 seconds, possibly fearing a pulverisation.
Peter O’Mahony, sporting a new hair-do so severe he won’t have to visit the barbers for another six months, and Rhys Ruddock helped bring the score up to 21-0 at half-time, although over on ITV Nick Mullins felt it should have been more, reckoning Ireland just needed another few “meaty thrusts” to get over the line again.
Come the break, Eddie wasn’t happy at all, lamenting the insufficiency of meaty thrusting and suchlike. “Eddie, I’m not being smart, what would satisfy you,” asked Daire. “We should put another 40 points on these guys in the second half,” he replied. Jamie, meanwhile, was analysing our quarterback Johnny Sexton - “he’s changing the picture for the dee-fence” - and saluting his “IDs”, which had some of us heading for Google Translate.
The kindest thing Eddie could say about the second half was that “it was like watching paint dry”, and while Donal tried briefly to make excuses for the players by noting that “the ball seems to do funny things when the roof is closed”, Eddie was having none of it. “Believe it or not, the Russians had the same ball in the same conditions,” he said.
Jamie conceded that the performance wouldn’t be a “massive mood-booster” for the squad, but then started going through the positives. After those four seconds, Eddie could take no more. “It was just a terrible performance lads, let’s call it what it is.” Jamie countered with more optimistic thoughts. “No problems, let’s move on, nothing to see here, move on,” said Eddie. “I’m not saying . . . every game there are learnings you’ve got to take forward, yes it’s a cliché but . . .” Jamie replied, before kind of surrendering.
Brent stepped in. “They’ll beat Samoa, we all know that.”
Eddie: “Will they beat Samoa on that performance?”
Brent: “Ireland are capable of beating any team in the world, why can’t we focus on that?”
Eddie: “They’re capable, but I’m trying to find evidence of it at the moment.”
Brent: “I’m trying to keep upbeat here!”
Jamie: “It’s about gaining momentum and . . .”
Eddie: “We had momentum after Scotland because we thought we’d done a good job, but it turned out that Scotland weren’t all that and a bag of chips.”
Jamie’s face: “What?”
Like Ireland, Jamie and Brent have nine days to recover during which time they’ll do their learnings and work-ons so they’ll be able to meatily thrust their way through Eddie’s gloominess and ID some momentum. If Ireland aren’t the full bag of chips against Samoa, though, that’ll be the mother of all tasks.