I’ve been doing this blogging thing for almost 7 years now. The reason I enjoy it is that I can give my opinions without an editor looking over my shoulder.
Still, when writing about the Irish rugby team in particular, I can’t help feeling like there’s someone doing just that. Like I’m somehow compelled to make sure my write-ups don’t appear “one-eyed”.
Well screw that, I say.
I took two things from this game…
First, it may not have been a pretty victory, but I still firmly believe we can turn the English over in Dublin.
Second, Ronan O’Gara was definitely not the worst player in a green jersey by any stretch of the imagination, but nor was he “man of the match” – that award should have gone to Sean O’Brien.
If you think those two viewpoints are one-eyed, so be it. But if you bother to read the rest of my post and STILL think they are, then I’d suggest it’s not only myself who needs to be more objective.
- We CAN score tries from attacking positions (pic). Seven overall.
- We CAN play good defence. Only two tries against in 3 matches.
- We CAN keep our discipline when it is most needed. For this I cite the last few minutes in Rome.
Where our problem lies is our inability to do those three things for 80 minutes, and if we don’t find a way to do that soon, it could well be a sad end to the Declan Kidney era come November.
Even the things we CAN’T seem to do at the moment, like throwing consistent lineouts and sensibly managing our bench, would be negated if we could JUST find a way to keep our overall focus from kickoff to final whistle.
But call me an eternal optimist all you want, I still back these players to do just that when Martin Johnson’s men come a-calling on March 19. In my book, for Irish fans it’s either believe we can improve, or throw in the towel now.
Now remember..I’m not saying I was at all happy with what happened in Murrayfield yesterday. I was furious with all the penalties going against us, and unlike Marc Lievremont wasn’t willing to pin that on the referee. And of course, if we had been playing any team other than the ineffectual Scots, we would have lost.
But the fact that the Scottish were poor helps me make my point. They had a measure of success going forward but it really did look like they gave their all on the day. As for Ireland however, we clearly have been stuck in second gear since the competition kicked off. That’s a huge difference…at least we have somewhere to go, we just need to find a way to get there.
And if I need something else to try and get folks behind this team, I’ll point to the childish idiots who call themselves Irish fans yet somehow felt the need to send insulting tweets directly to the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip & Cian Healy afterwards. Full credit to the lads for re-tweeting them to show them for what they really were.
Now…to the “man-of-the-match” thing. Yes, I KNOW my personal choice makes it look like I’m favouring my blue jersey over my green one, but please let me explain.
When our performance is as average as it was on Sunday, the award for our best player shouldn’t really matter. But in this case, I have to be concerned about how the squad improves if the likes of Ryle Nugent, Donal Lenihan & George Hook are going to continue to put O’Gara on a pedestal & somehow immune from criticism.
Their persistent gushing of Ronan-love forces me to point out his two missed place kicks and his restart that went straight into touch. REMEMBER…whenever Sexton did such things, and he did, he was castigated for them.
But most of all, if Ireland’s biggest faux-pas on the day was that we were constantly giving up penalties, then how can you say our best player was a man who was responsible for two of them?
Compare that to O’Brien’s stats, where he led the side in carries (pic), metres gained, net tackles & line breaks, ALL of which contributed greatly to Irish scores, and what’s more he conceded ZERO penalties. Seemed like a simple choice to me.
My overall point is this…there is a problem in this Irish squad. And it is there throughout the ENTIRE squad, no exceptions. But I believe it is one that can be fixed. And seeing how the Welsh and English also flattered to deceive with victories this weekend, there is still time to fix it before the fat lady sings in this Six Nations.
We just need leaders like Kidney, O’Driscoll and, yes, O’Gara, to stay as one-eyed as they can…one that is fixed firmly on the real prize on offer in 2011, realistic success in the World Cup.
And what of our chances Down Under? Well, with so much provincial silverware up for grabs immediately after this Six Nations is over, I still don’t see how much we can say about our chances in New Zealand until the August warm-ups are in full swing, nor can any country for that matter.
Much rugby to be played yet, folks. Please don’t give up on the boys in green just yet.
Also this weekend…
(writeups done shortly after full-time in each case)
ITALY 16-24 WALES
The Italians are just missing one piece to their jigsaw and they’ll be competitive in the Six Nations – a good old-fashioned creative out-half who can kick from the tee. Wales are having a Jeckyll & Hyde tournament and much like the Irish were lucky not to be turned over in Rome. I still think they’re better with Hook at 10. If I’m Declan Kidney I’d be looking closely at Italy’s approach…they clearly thought there were holes to be punched through the Welsh defence. Hopefully we’ll re-discover the ability to hold on to our passes long before our meeting in Cardiff.
ENGLAND 17-9 FRANCE
Since I limit these mini-writeups to 100 words, I don’t have space to outline all the chances the French had to win this. But I will say one thing – I believe had Parra started, the result would be different. Wilkinson kicked the key pen right after coming on, but easily the most enjoyable moment was Chris Ashton thinking he’d scored another “swallow-dive” try even though play had been called back half an hour before. England gratefully took the chances they were given and march on to a Slam, but their path goes right through Dublin - Paddy’s weekend, no less.