Time to meet another new member of the HoR2 team - this time it's Keego, who will be following the rugby meeja, both mainstream and social, throughout the upcoming season. Here he shares a few thoughts on the recent NZ tour.
Welcome to my first blog here on the HarpinOnRugby2. My name is Keego and I have finally graduated from chief toilet seat warmer /fluffer at HoR Manor to the heady heights of blogger.
I thought I would start with my opinion (right or wrong as they may be) on end of season tour to New Zealand. My views may surprise some readers, as I am not completely negative on the outcome of the tests. I will be talking about the 3 tests as a hole instead of dissecting each game, this is because of my bad memory and low word count allowance.
Before I get into it I would like to point out that I am not personally attacking anyone mentioned. To play for your country means you are an elite athlete in your chosen sport. The same goes for managing and coaching the team.
In saying that, let’s kick off.
Firstly, at any level of sport, the main aim of the coach is to play the players in the positions that they perform the best in. From my first match way back in the days of the beta max video tape until the most recent one, the coach has put me in my best position (usually in the car park). Looking at how the players lined up in New Zealand it was hard to miss that the players were not playing in the positions in which they have historically performed best. Fergus McFadden spends most of this time in the centre for Leinster and has performed consistently well at the highest level of European rugby, but in New Zealand he was played on the wing. Ferg played very well, but I can’t help but think that if he was put in the centre when Earls was injured there may have been more cohesion in test 3. When you make room for a player that means someone, in this case Andrew Trimble is on the sidelines when he has been one of our most consistent threats.
Speaking of Keith Earls, he appears to be suffering from ‘where do we put you’ syndrome. He has played full back, wing and centre for Ireland in the last 18 months. Instead of putting him in a given position and working with Munster to get him game time in the same position, Kidney has almost used him as a utility player. This is partly because of injuries, but for me, Earls just isn’t big enough to play in the centre. His explosive speed would be better suited out wide. Before someone says ‘he is the same size as BOD’ I would reply with the following:
THERE IS ONLY ONE BOD
Seeing as we all agree with this, I think he should have been asked or ordered to stay at home and rest. I understand that professional pride and captaining your country is a huge carrot to dangle, but rest and recuperation would surely have done him more good that being battered for 3 weeks? This is one of the greatest players ever to play the game and at this stage of his career he needs to be managed even more than previous years. He has to be protected from himself. Whilst he may be Superman, even he has his kryptonite. I was praying to all the gods that he didn’t walk away from the green jersey in his post match interview.
Now for some positives. Fitzpatrick performed amazingly well for a debut against the world champions. I think the AB’s thought they were going to steam roll him, but he more than held his own. Best had his best showing in a green jersey for a long time and Healy was smashing everything in game 1 and 2. It was the best front row performance I have seen in a very long time and the lads should be commended for that.
When Kidney brought on O’Gara to to replace Darcy (who also had a blinder) we became far more potent. The AB’s had no idea how to respond. Even in losing we finished very strongly and had a great platform for game 3.
Then it happened.
Cue the music from Jaws.
Paddy Wallace was flown half way around the world to start against the world champions. There was no way he was going to be able to perform at a high level. He already gets a hard time in the stands and now Kidney put him in a position that he could not possibly win. This was the first bad decision from the coach on the day. Instead of starting as the team finished in game 2, he decided to formulate a plan that included switch kicking to a 5’9 winger when he is up against someone who is 6’2. Even with my ordinary level maths, this does not compute.
This is before minute 4. We started with a plan that was destined to fail. Why was McFadden or Darren Cave put in the centre? They could have learnt a huge amount playing beside O’Driscoll against the best team in the world. This would have stood them in good stead for November and onwards. Instead now we have a team scarred by that last game.
In being negative I have to remember that we had injuries to deal with, and with the physical nature of rugby this will always be the case. There just didn’t appear to be a plan b, or at least a plan b that the team believed in. As well as injuries, the lads have been training (not necessarily playing) for 51 weeks. Even those of you who are lucky enough to be working get more days off that the lads got this season. They just cannot perform consistently when the workload is this high. It is not possible! The player management program is a great idea, but it needs tweaking a wee bit. The fact is, the human body cannot do what rugby players do 51 weeks in a row.
We can learn a huge amount from game 1 and 2. The front row stood up very well. The second row performed well. But the game plan was just not correct, especially in game 1.
In closing, I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. My views may be slightly simplistic but it is the simple things that win games. If you would like to debate or shout at me, my twitter is @nkeegan. If you would like to send me money ………leave it under the first seat on the 12:20 145 bus from town to Bray.
Get your jersey ready for a new season! Keego
keego (@nkeegan): Newbie blogger, former professional wrestler, sometime attempted rugby player (@TheThirsty3rds), professional procrastinator and attempted musician with a fondness for long walks on the bar, tea and the couch. Opinionated Leinster fan and constant gardener.
© JL Pagano 2012