Ireland would most likely have lost on Saturday but Tomas O’Leary’s decision to carry the ball over his own line and concede a 5m scrum after Owen Farrell’s aimless kick was a dreadful lack of composure from a player woefully short of form and confidence.
Keith Earls had done something almost identical two years ago against the same opposition. Making the same mistake again was terrible to watch – a replay of a slow motion car crash.
When O’Leary made his folly it was 12-9 and Ireland had defended excellently against an England team that had struggled to get into Ireland’s 22. A 22m drop out would have kept England outside their strike zone and buoyed Irish confidence. As it was, Court was destroyed and Ireland faced an insurmountable task.
Confidence is vital in sport. O’Leary and Court looked so short of it that they drained it out of their team mates and gave England an air of swagger that brought back bad memories. The Mole expected Chris Oti to appear on the left wing at one stage – déjà vu all over again.
As poorly as these players perform, they don’t pick themselves. Kidney put both players in positions that exposed their many frailties. His loyalty to his players should engender confidence but when these two were asked to do jobs they weren’t capable of, it back fired completely. Young in-form players may lack experience but they don’t lack for vigour. Kidney’s selection policy has been the rock upon which this campaign foundered.