The Tide Has Risen

SdF - not as good as it looks?

Ireland’s draw in Paris was underwhelming after leading by 11 points at half time but the Six Nations has a distorting effect and the result seems better the day after.

While Ireland used be almost guaranteed to win in Cardiff when all else was losses, and beating England has recently become a spring ritual as welcome as the first daffodils poking their heads above the soil, Ireland don’t win in Paris. That has become a truism and changing it will be the job of Irish rugby coaches over the next two decades. Ireland displayed a purpose and a stickiness about their task that was well approved around at Mole Towers. Beating France on a regular basis would catapult Ireland into a different league because it would change the nation’s rugby Mental. Not losing is a good interim step.

Viewed over a longer time frame, the tide has risen for Irish rugby. A draw in Paris without O’Driscoll inspired heroics is a notable improvement on what went before. The great man is missed but others are stepping up to try and fill the void. The most obvious of these is O’Connell. It is possible that the Lions will have more Welshmen than any other nation next season and that Warburton will be the seen as the natural appointment as captain but it seems to me that Paul O’Connell has never played better. His Munster performances this season have been the finest of his career while his last two Irish matches have been superb. He looks fresh after missing most of last season and Brad Thorn’s arrival is a reminder that second rows have long shelf lives.

How many other players can join him at such exalted heights remains to be seen. Rory Best was highly conspicuous around the park yesterday but Ireland coughed up lineouts at vital times. Admittedly, there’s a lot going on in lineouts but these both looked Best’s doing. Rob Kearney was generally outstanding on Sunday but opened up the park for France with his loose kick in the lead up to Fofana’s try. Sean O’Brien looked pissed off to have been substituted by O’Mahony and had impressed in his 7 duties.

Ireland lacked a bit in midfield. D’Arcy isn’t the force of old while Earls hasn’t been afforded many opportunities to get on the shoulder of a half break. There doesn’t seem to be many alternatives. McFadden for D’Arcy is a possibility at 12 but wouldn’t seem to change that much. Darren Cave’s injury is unfortunately timed, while O’Driscoll’s return would be greatly welcomed.

Scotland will present a tough challenge for Ireland and Kidney needs his team to produce the same level of hunger. Given Kidney’s consistency of selection, consistency of performance is a quality that has eluded his teams and seems an irritating contradiction. Ireland gave it a lash against France and reproducing that purpose will give a well lubricated springtime crowd something to shout about.

3 thoughts on “The Tide Has Risen

  1. Agreed Mole, on Monday a draw is a decent result – it has always been a huge ask for us to get a win over in Paris. We went over there in 2010 as Grand Slam champions with a full team [well, Leo Cullen in for DOC, which was arguably an improvement] and took an absolute pasting. Beaten off the park.

    An excellent defensive display for the lads and some opportunistic scoring from Tommy Bowe. A ball on the floor can unlock the stingiest defense, and that’s what happened to Ireland – a little bit of the unexpected had D’Arcy and Earls confused, Trinh-Duc pounced on it and Fofana won the footrace. Other than that the defense was excellent.

  2. Can’t really gainsay you, Mole: a good performance begat a decent result.

    However – am I being too negative?! – ultimately I found the improvement in performance to be all the more frustrating.

    Last season, against France, we bemoaned (a) the penalty count (b) D’Arcy’s defensive lapse and (c) our failure to capitalise on a number of scoring opportunities. We failed to put France away when it seemed that we had a good opportunity to do so. Not long after, we had ample reason to moan about being robbed by Wales (aided and abetted by the most incompetent referee’s assistant ever to run the line in a 6Nations game).

    Long story short, by the time we faced the Orcs, our 6 Nations was – for all intents and purposes – a failure. What happened next? We put in one of the best performances in recent memory against an England team that was gunning for a Grand Slam. (Remember that first scrum? Remember that ecstatic response from the crowd when we decimated the English pack at the very first time of asking?! Epic! It was my highlight of the past decade and set the tone for the whole performance.)

    All well and good. Except that one couldn’t hide from the truth that, when the pressure really had been on us – i.e. against France – we had come up short.

    Same story this season. Against Wales in the season opener, we put in a damp-squib performance against a team that schooled us in terms of attitude and application.

    Frustration Station!

    [Of course, I also have to account for the RWC. After all, we did manage to open our account against Aussie with a great win. Ace. Slaps-on-the-back all ’round. But, then again, given that we were coming off a string of poor results in the warm up, and given we were playing a Southern Hemisphere team below the equator, maybe we weren’t under that much pressure….. By contrast, once we managed to qualify from our group, we found ourselves playing for our first ever trip to a RWC semi-final. Given that we were playing for the right to play France – and not BNZ/the Saffers/the Convicts – the Quarter Final against Wales was undoubtedly a biggest-game-in-my-career-to-date for every single member of that team. The pressure most definitely was On. The pressure was MASSIVE! And we all know what happened next. We found ourselves bemoaning, amongst other things, uncharacteristic defensive errors by D’Arcy and Earls and giving credit to the Taffs for a supreme display of tackling. O well….]

    [I am also conveniently ignoring our last two games against Italy, one of which – the last pool game in the RWC – was certainly a crucial game for the team and so was one for which the team was under pressure. But I feel entitled to do so given Italy’s undoubted status as a weak team. In other words, in truth, although there was pressure on the team, it was pressure with a small “p”….]

    So, watching us play like we did against France in the first half yesterday, I find it hard not to feel frustrated.

    Question One: why is it that Ireland so rarely manages to play to [our perceptions of] their true capabilities?

    Question Two: why is it that Ireland invariably do so only when the pressure is off?

    Question Three: is Question One a question that the supporters of every other team also ask themselves?! (All rugby supporters, that is, apart from Kiwi supporters in the past 4 months….)

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