Monday, November 10, 2014

Ireland's November Needs


As Irish fans we remember how deflated we all felt as the above moment took place.  Sorry for dragging it out of your memory banks, but my point is that even that kind of heartbreak can be forgotten.

You do remember what happened the following March in Paris?  You know, the whole "winning the Six Nations" thing?  Good.

There's our context.  And it is always the context when we look ahead to November.  Much will happen over the next few weeks, there will be many talking points, there will be many conclusions drawn.   

But remember, remember - it's only November.

If you fly though it on your top form and win all your matches, there's a downside in that the stop-start European season will break your momentum plus you'll have the favourites tag and thus a target on your back come Six Nations time.  And last season Ireland showed the reverse can also apply - two disappointing losses to Southern Hemisphere giants can be turned around a few months later.

The true context is the Rugby World Cup 2015.  It hasn't always been for Irish sides.  But it most definitely so for Joe Schmidt's Ireland.  So let's remind ourselves what he's looking at.

We are in Pool D alongside France, Italy, Canada & Romania.  Not the toughest pool to get out of, but that's not enough.  If we win it we can avoid New Zealand in the quarterfinals, so if we are to stand a decent chance of reaching the final four, which let's face it is our "Valhalla", we need to target four wins.

Topping the pool would more than likely put us up against Argentina in the quarters, but here's my point - the countries we are due to face in November are of no concern to us with regard to reaching the World Cup semifinals.

The Springboks will definitely fancy knocking off the Six Nations champions in their opening tour match, and having knocked off the World Champs last time out and naming the exact same 23 for Saturday, their confidence will be high.

But more of that in tomorrow's match preview.

Next up will be Georgia, and the pre-match hype no doubt will entirely revolve around that horror show in 2007 but this of course will be Joe's chance to give fringe players a run.

Finally there's the Wallabies.  Our clashes with the Aussies are always lively, but the whole Schmidt v Cheika dimension brings it to an entirely new level and for a one-off test it is bound to be a cracker of a contest.

But none of the above leads me to believe that there is ANYthing we can take from these matches when it comes to RWC2015.

Joe has a lot of decisions to make between now and next September, and though the matches are scarce, much can happen in terms of injuries in the meantime so the amount of long term planning that can be done is minimal.

Having witnessed one of his training sessions out at Carton House, it is clear that he is a man who knows exactly what he is looking for from every given match situation and what's more, he knows how to get his squad behind him.  The only advice he needs is on how to patent something because if he could do it for his style of coaching he could easily retire now!

What he needs most of all from this November is the support of the Irish fans.  He has tough matches, he has a long injury list, but he still has a whole lot of match-winning talent at his disposal. 

Let's enjoy this Guinness Series for now and appreciate what the boys in green are trying to get done.  Because whatever happens now, good or bad, you can bet it will be used to help only good things happen down the line.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it all boils down to two words - #TrustJoe.

Best of luck to the lads, I'm very much looking forward to the next three weekends of thrilling test rugby.

#ShoulderToShoulder JLP

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