The NZ Herald has published its Team of the Tournament.
NZ Herald Team of the Tournament
A little surprisingly, Ireland supply the second highest number of players to the team [three], with the victorious All Blacks supplying just one more. Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien and Brian O’Driscoll all make it into the final shake-up. Rory Best is also named in the Readers’ Second XV – a tribute to his exceptionally good tournamen.
There was a clamour amongst the meeja in the aftermath of the Ireland vs Wales match to throw the baby out with the bathwater and declare Ireland’s World Cup a failure. Cian Healy was apparently ‘taught a lesson’ by Adam Jones, and Sean O’Brien had to sit in the ha’penny place to Sam Warburton.
The general consensus seems to be that the Welsh backrow totally outplayed ours, that Warburton had a field day … not really, in the Mole’s opinion. Brian O’Driscoll won as many penalties at the breakdown as Warburton did. The Welsh guys knocked down our big boppers well, but Ferris and O’Brien still had some great runs, as did Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe – they broke tackles, found space, got passes away.
Faletau, Lydiate and Warburton tackled like dervishes all day [according to The New Zealand Herald, the latter two made almost fifty tackles between them] but they didn’t really contribute anything with ball in hand. In contrast, Sean O’Brien was the top ball carrier in the match with 23 runs for a gain of 81 metres. If the Welsh backrow had been as successful at the breakdown as some are claiming, Wales would have had more ball than they did.
Healy got popped up badly in one scrum, and for a lot of hacks, that was all they needed to write off his excellent World Cup. Lions tighthead Adam Jones – the man Healy was up against all day – didn’t make a single carry during the game, while Healy made no fewer than twelve. It wasn’t on one scrum that the game was lost, and Healy deserves all the plaudits that are coming his way. Not that he can’t improve, but he’s already a hell of a player.
Paul O’Connell can consider himself unfortunate to miss out; he had an enormous tournament, and clearly outshone some of the younger NH lights like Richie Gray, Bradley Davies and Courtney Lawes. Pato Albacete probably has the strongest cause for complaint however; he was simply magnificent, and is probably the most complete second-row in the game. Very physical, very hard-working, a skillful lineout technician, well-disciplined and a very able footballer for somebody his size.
Unfortunately, the Readers’ First XV poll doesn’t even have the charm of those age-old selections that named Colin Meads in all fifteen positions – it reeks of that strange blend of chippiness and arrogance that hangs around New Zealand rugby in an unattractive fug.
The Kiwi rugby public can be the sorest of losers [viz. the reaction to RWC07 quarter final loss to France], but they manage to double up the irritant quotient by being pretty ghastly winners as well! Their players come across as extremely decent – who could begrudge McCaw, Carter, Conrad Smith, Mils Muliaina and Big Bad Brad Carnegie Thorn their World Cup winners medals – but the fans can be the hardest of work.
It still feels a lot more promising than the ‘meeja’ presented it! Both of the most recent Ireland Head Coaches set out to have two players for each position. This has to be a minimum with H-Cup teams now starting with a 38-player pool!
We know what happened in France in 2007; if there were two players for each position, they were well hidden – ‘nuf said! However, the use of 30 players in New Zealand demonstrates a remarkably improved management of player resources over the 4-year build-up period. This is continuing as we see the depths to which the four Irish H-Cup teams have had to dig to get through the first 8 weeks of the season. While the front-liners will fit back in, the competition for places can only be good for the next phase of Irish rugby development.
It is widely recognised that the Six-Nations is the most important tournament from the Union’s perspective (quote: Shane Horgan last Sunday – if a quote were needed!). This leads to a sub-script which is: ‘Six Nations is more important than the World Cup’; but there does not need to be a competition for ‘importance’! The two sit comfortably ‘side-by-side’.
The sales of tickets for the Wales, Italy and Scotland games will be better because of the good performances in New Zealand; and because of the way Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster have played during September and October!
The Coaching Team prepared a very skilled and motivated team for the World Cup. It is arguable that there were few, if any, technical shortcomings in the execution of the tournament strategy. However, one of the findings of the investigation by the New Zealand Union carried out after their defeat by France in the 2007 Quarter-final was that World Cup preparation must not focus on any one match, but on the final, with a strategic plan to get there (including options that develop as the pool games evolve).
While there was a huge focus on the Australia game, which was totally successful; there was a parallel focus by Wales on their Quarter-final. Both teams missed the final – but both demonstrated (in these two games) the technical skills, as well as the ability to close-out a game; but not in the final!
Both Matt Williams and Bob Casey, writing after the Ireland/Wales game, suggested that the lack of a psychologist in the Irish coaching set-up led to a flawed mental approach in seeking a Quarter-final victory. In the world of jousting gladiators Warren out-thought Deccie – or at least gave the Reds a mental upper-hand over the Greens!
Nothing broken – probably a greater pace of development in Irish Rugby than in any other rugby-playing country. The next four years presents the best opportunity for a World Cup – in England. Except for the ‘inconvenience’ of having the World Cup in September/October, when there is a four-week International window in November in each of the other 3 years; the Six-Nations can still have primacy of position; but success here is the bext preparation for a tilt at the World Cup.
If the Irish support was fantastic in New Zealand in 2011……………………..