Corporate Governance

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with quarterback Tom Brady. Tom Terrific knows a thing or two about keeping an even keel when times are good … and maintaining it when they’re not so good as well.

As Tom Brady has said many times, don’t get too up when you’re up or too down when you’re down. The New England Patriots quarterback knows all about winning and losing – he’s got three Super Bowl rings, but has recently been on the end of two losses in the NFL’s biggest game. 

Ireland U20s beat the Baby Boks a week ago [an outfit that just trounced the English U20s], and most Irish rugby followers were proclaiming their satisfaction with the future health of the game in the country. The likes of tighthead Tadgh Furlong, lock Iain Henderson, openside Conor Gilsenan and outhalf JJ Hanrahan look like they have the potential to make the step up from representative underage rugby to the test arena within the next three or four years. Four players from one year is a pretty high success rate, and providing injury doesn’t interfere, three of them – Furlong, Henderson and Hanrahan – look like can’t miss prospects.

The Irish U20s celebrate beating the South African U20s. Ireland were in front for pretty much the entire game, led well at halftime and were worthy winners against their hosts … and this is an Irish team missing three players who started every game of the U20 Six Nations in Kyle McCall, Paddy Jackson and Shane Layden.

Then we lose quite badly to the All Blacks at test level with a team lacking four nailed on starters [Ross, O’Connell, Ferris and Bowe – three of them Lions] in a line-up that has new combinations in the front row, second row, back-row, centers and back three and all of a sudden everything is doom and gloom?

If anybody thought that we were going to beat the world champion All Blacks away from home on the back of a two-win Six Nations, when the recent form card saw a 18-38 home loss and a 66-28 away loss, their optimism might just have veered into delusion. We will always need our best players on the park if we’re going to beat NZ away from home.

Anytime the Irish team ship a big loss – and fans have seen two big losses in the last two games – the soul-searching goes into overdrive. There seems to be only a veneer of confidence about Irish rugby … the sort of braggadocio that demands ‘we’ believe we should beat the All Blacks on their own patch when we have a weakened team, but that when the game is lost prompts questions about the fabric of Irish rugby down to mini-rugby level. “We should play kids without boots! The Schools Senior Cup should be a league!”

Calma. Irish rugby is not in particularly bad shape on a macro level. However, at the very point of the spear, the IRFU have handled some serious issues pretty slackly over the last twelve months, and are only getting things ship-shape now.

Johnny Foreigner Taking Our Jobs

They felt the need to issue their document on NIQ players in the middle of the provincial season, when all Irish rugby supporters are concentrating on the Pro12 and HEC – if they had done it post-Six Nations, or even at the end of this tour, it would have met with a lot less resistance from the general rugby fan. Irish rugby fans are like chefs – they work with in-season produce. They support their provinces when they’re in-season, and they support the national team when it’s in-season.

Those responsible for the national planning document had only the brusquest of conferrals with the provincial management teams, and then sprung a paper full of holes right in the middle of the provincial season. It had a few stupid clauses that should have been ironed out before going to print, and if the reasoning behind the timing was the supposed urgency to release it before January [generally contract season], they just read their audience entirely wrong.

BJ Botha, Munster tighthead and apparently somebody who’s hurting Irish rugby. From what The Mole has seen, Stephen Archer isn’t anywhere near test level, and he’s the second best tighthead in Munster. He probably wouldn’t be the second best tighthead in any other province.  Mushy got a big push [and a central contract], but the game moved away from offensive lineman-sized tightheads, and Munster were left minus Hayes AND his successor at the start of the 2011-12 season. Botha’s doing a great deal to aid the development of Kilcoyne, Ryan and Archer, but at some stage in the near future, those guys are going to have to take a step up and make a name for themselves.

We should decrease our reliance on non-Irish qualified players over the next three-four years. If all four provinces work to a 4 NIE + 1 NIQ [project player] for the next two seasons [up to the end of the 20-13-14 season] and then a reduced a 3NIE + 1NIQ system from then on – and if the PCRG does its job halfway competently and doesn’t automatically okay every foreign tighthead that each province chances its arm with and brings to the contract table – who’d have any real complaints?

As reported in this excellent article by Dexy’s, the PCRG [Professional Contracts Review Group] is composed of Martin O’Sullivan, Pa Whelan, Tom Grace, Eddie Wigglesworth and Philip Browne. It seems an oversight that nobody from the management of the senior national team is involved. The manager’s job [currently held by Mick Kearney] is somewhat nebulous and underpowered in many respects; this should be an important part of his role. There’s no good reason why he shouldn’t bring the national team’s interests to the table.

If Declan Kidney thinks that the abundance of foreign tightheads employed in Ireland are hurting the national team, his opinion should be represented on-record, not as a reported conversation he had with one of the members of the group. It seems that one hand of the IRFU are continually professing the primacy of the national team and then undercutting it with the other hand. The PCRG can veto any potential signing that the provinces bring in front of them … and yet they signed off on both BJ Botha moving to Munster from Ulster and Ulster drafting in John Afoa. How odd.

It’s not just with regards to non-Irish-eligible players where the decisions have been questionable. Nobody knows how much influence the head coach has on who is awarded central contracts – he’s not even in the PCRG, and yet surely there’s no better-placed man to advise on who is vital to the national team. I don’t like to heap misery on a player who has had to retire prematurely, but the decision to award Dennis Leamy a two-year central contract was ill-judged. The second half of Leamy’s career has been plagued by very serious injuries, he had passed his thirtieth birthday and was no longer capable of getting into his provincial starting line-up. Was he really central to Ireland’s plans going forward for the next two years? As it turned out, he didn’t play a single minute of rugby after he signed on the line that is dotted.

The Mole likes seeing guys like Isa Nacewa play for Leinster, Howlett for Munster and Pienaar for Ulster. Ray Ofisa was a great servant for Connacht. They’re exciting. The idea that the provinces should exist solely to supply players to an Irish team and not to compete in their own right would be an enormous turn-off for a majority of rugby fans. There’s no guarantee of success even if you did something like that: look at what happened to Graham Henry in 2007, when he took his All Blacks out of Super Rugby for seven weeks and then got knocked out in the RWC07 quarter-finals by France [on neutral territory in Cardiff, no less].

Irish rugby can sustain 16 NIQ players out of 160 [if we take each provincial squad as having 40 senior pros, with each of them containing 3 NIE players and 1 project player]. They can add enormous value to the game in this country, even if they don’t play tests for Ireland.

Unfilled Top Jobs And Work Left Undone

There were more admin shenanigans up top for the team ‘that drives the game’: as far as The Mole is aware, the IRFU were without a Head of Fitness for seven to eight months. Philip Morrow was appointed in August 2010 in that role, but who’s heard of him anytime in the last eight months? Nobody. He joined Saracens after RWC11. The IRFU advertised the post on 24 October on their website but have only recently [17 May] appointed South African Dave Clark to take over the role, suggesting that it was vacant from October to May, i.e. almost the entire season.

Massimo Cuttita was appointed as High Performance scrum coach a few days afterward [20 May] but, as reported by Brendan Fanning, he won’t be available for duty until December, when his contract with Scotland expires. The position was advertised a couple of days after the set-piece disintegration in Twickenham, but it’s an entirely new role. Despite the fact that Ireland’s scrum has been shown to be a weakness since it was destroyed in Paris in February 2010, and both the provincial teams and the national side have been repeatedly targeted in the set-piece for a number of years, little was done to remedy the situation bar sub-contracting Greg Feek from Leinster for almost two years. Leinster got plowed by Toulouse at scrum time in the 2009-10 Heineken Cup semi-final in early May, and Feek was appointed in mid-June of that year by the province. You can look at that as a knee-jerk reaction, or you can say that four-five weeks is a reasonable amount of time to headhunt a specialist.

There’s still no dedicated attack coach for the first team, and I think it’s fair to say that we have seen a drop off in our defense since Les Kiss started double-jobbing.

Dave Clark, the IRFU’s new Head of Fitness. Moustache? Check. Chris Hoy? Check. That’s good enough for me.

It looks like these major positions have now been filled, which is a positive, but the lag in recruiting  Clark and the leisurely approach to implementing a country-wide scrum strategy bear reporting. Sometimes the IRFU are unfairly criticised, while other teams they provide a stick with which to beat themselves. Again, it’s good that there are now highly-respected individuals in place in these posts, and the IRFU deserve a degree of credit … but they also deserve a degree of criticism for being consistently reactive, and even then slow to react.

The union [and specifically Philip Browne] consistently talk about the international team being the priority because it earns the money that feeds the rest of the game – and yet to all extents and purposes it looks like they have been cutting corners with the preparation of the international team. No national scrum coach? No national head of fitness? No dedicated attack coach? Come on. Clive Woodward got things right and things wrong when he was the English head coach, but he was always impeccably well-organised, and England were always a well-organised outfit under him.

Good Coaching = Great Value

Investment in technical coaching is money well-spent. The famous speech in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday about ‘the inches’ making the difference is as relevant on the training paddock as it is on the playing field. That’s where professionals hone their skills – those long hours of effort in the gym and on the field during the week. If that time is well spent, and players improve their strength levels and aerobic fitness, rehabilitate from injuries quicker, up their personal skillset and their unit skills, then you can see an enormous change in attitude, performance and results. On the other hand, if players aren’t being challenged, aren’t being given the right information or aren’t being taught well, you can waste great potential.

He’d never admit it, but Joe Schmidt is Leinster’s MVP – Jonny Sexton, Brian O’Driscoll, Leo Cullen, Isa Nacewa and Rob Kearney included.

Leinster went from scoring 27 tries in 18 games in the 2009-10 regular season in the Magners League [1.5 tries per game] with Alan Gaffney as attack coach and finishing with the second lowest total of tries scored in the league, to 50 in 22 games [2.27 tries/game] in the 2010-11 regular season in the Pro12 with Joe Schmidt as head coach, the second highest number of tries scored. If the average doesn’t sound that much better, put it like this: they scored an extra 23 tries in just 4 more games. They had almost exactly the same playing personnel both years, so the coach has to take huge credit.

Technical coaches – a scrum coach or a skills coach, for example – don’t have to have the rounded capabilities of a head coach: they don’t have to deal with the media on a daily basis, they don’t have to shoulder the responsibility of selection, they don’t have to do too much institutional glad-handing or be available with sponsors for meet-and-greet. All they have to take care of is their patch. It’s a narrower focus which demands expertise in fewer departments. As such, it’s an easier job, which means that more people can do it, which means that they don’t get paid as much. A scrum coach who costs €50k per annum or a player who can only command €50K per annum: who’s better value? If you look further down the line than the end of the season, the longevity factor comes into play … while coaching a scrum isn’t quite a desk job, it doesn’t carry the inherent injury risk of playing games. There’s no reason a good scrum coach can’t have a 20-25 year career if he’s in continual employment and keeps up to date with law changes and technique tweaks.

Over the next couple of years, The Mole would hope to see scrummaging coaches employed by all four provinces. Cuttita’s systems should be an obvious blueprint to work from [there are only so many ways you can scrummage correctly, after all] but individual coaches should bring their own knowledge and utilize the experience that their playing personnel bring with them. However, having a player as your de facto scrum coach – as is rumoured to be the case in Ulster with John Afoa, and in Munster with BJ Botha [despite the presence of Paul McCarthy] – isn’t a sustainable situation.


All things being equal, it’s nice to have an Irish head coach … that’s about it. Nice. On a hierarchical level, what matters most are

  • 1] the results; and
  • 2] the performances.

Conor O’Shea has done an exceptional job in a short period of time with Harlequins. He has made his living over in the UK for a long time, and recently recommitted to the Premiership champions … the IRFU might want him, but would he really want the job?

The most important part of a coach’s make-up is his ability to improve his team. His nationality? Why does it matter? All things being equal, it’d be great to have an Irish head coach. Would The Mole rather Ireland played 10 matches and won 9 with a New Zealander as a coach or played 10 and won 8 with an Irishman as a coach? I’ll take the Kiwi, please.

Giving a weight to a coach’s nationality rather than their ability – I can’t see the positives. I’m glad that Michael Bradley, Mark McCall and Conor O’Shea are doing well in the UK [and I believe Simon Easterby will do well too]. The only one of them you’d want anywhere near the Irish job is O’Shea: Bradley’s Edinburgh team conceded a thousand tries and McCall’s Saracens played an absolute abortion of a brand of rugby. I’d take Exeter’s Rob Baxter or the Waikato Chiefs’ Dave Rennie over either of them if I were picking a coach.

The Current Coaching Ticket

The Mole believes that there’s little chance of the IRFU sacking Kidney before his term is up; they wouldn’t want to be seen to sack the coach who delivered the first Grand Slam in sixty years.

Irish players celebrate their win over Australia in the group stages of RWC11. It was the first Irish test win over a southern hemisphere side below the equator in over thirty years, and it came in a tournament setting in which both sides were set-up to win and on equal terms. For once, Ireland came out on the plus side of the depth game: the Aussies had no capable replacement for David Pocock, whereas David Wallace’s No7 jersey was brilliantly taken over by Sean O’Brien.

It seems to me that Kidney will emerge from this test series as a lame duck head coach. He had a reasonable RWC11, but the disappointment of the quarter-final loss to Wales unfortunately cancelled out the elation of the group win over Australia [at least in my eyes]. The form shown in the following Six Nations was very iffy and the tournament ended with as crushing a loss as we have seen against NH opposition during his tenure, against a non-vintage English team. There was very little exposure for players who had put their hands up for selection in the previous four months.

When you take into account that we lost all four of our warm-up games in August 2011 and preceded that with an ordinary Six Nations [bar one good win against the Grand Slam-chasing English, which went a long way to show that the players in green that day are well capable of performing at test level], it’s been a long run of mediocrity.

We only have two tests in November 2012, so there’s little possibility of gaining any sort of momentum there. Ireland have never lost to Argentina at home [we’ve only played them six times here] and even though they’re a fine side and will be coming off a first appearance in the Rugby Championship, anything less than a win will unfortunately be a historic failure, while a win won’t guarantee that many kudos. It’s a crap fixture for the coach, a lose/lose situation. Argentina typically play a dull, grinding brand of rugby, so it’s difficult to look good against them.

His recent complaints about having to use the national team as an arena for two debutant tightheads to get experience were pretty cringe-worthy for a number of reasons, and showed that the pressure of the job is beginning to take its toll on him.

Firstly, Deccie Fitzpatrick played pretty well, and while Ronan Loughney didn’t do quite as good a job, so be it. He didn’t disgrace himself either. The game wasn’t lost at the scrum, as it was against England. Kidney consistently refers to test rugby as a step up from provincial rugby, so where else are they going to get experience of test rugby than at test level, in that case? Secondly, this is the man who has given thirty caps to Tom Court and twenty-five to Tony Buckley, and was still capping John Hayes as a 37-year old – five years older than Mike Ross is now – after he had been brutally exposed as past-prime in the 2009-10 Six Nations [Hayes was capped twice in November 2010 and once in August 2011].

After 42 starts and 8 appearances off the bench for Connacht in two seasons at tighthead, Jamie Hagan couldn’t even get into the RWC11 training group. Mike Ross couldn’t get a look in for Ireland over four tests in November 2010 despite being obviously the best tighthead scrummager in the country. As Greg Feek said in a recent Irish Times interview: “I’ve said before about depth and growing other guys not just within our provinces but within the national squad as well.” It’s seems clear to me that there’s a difference of opinion in that regard between Feek and Kidney, and that the former backs his coaching ability to improve props as scrummagers.

Across the team though, The Mole has seen nothing in the way Ireland have played in the last two years to convince me that we’re improving, and as Drico has said many times, “If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards”. I’d suggest that we’re not even standing still at the moment, but that we’re regressing.

16 thoughts on “Corporate Governance

  1. It is interesting how Leamy got a contract whilst being injured and Luke Fitz despite being offered a lower wage is now considered not worth employing at all.

  2. We don’t want one national scrum coach to rule them all, one national scrum coach to bind them etc. We’d be in a bigger mess, potentially.

    There was a strategy that involved cloning John Hayes as the future of the tighthead prop position. Hence the focus on Buckley, and Maguire at U20s level. Variety is important, Declan Fitzpatrick and Mike Ross were very much out of fashion, but flourished under a different set of eyeballs. Feek was very positive about Fitzpatrick because he knew how to work with that sort of material, the opposite of Buckley. Not the athlete, not as strong, not capable of big plays, not as physically imposing but damn hard working and actually willing to do use his noodle. Fitzpatrick adapts quickly to his opposite number and makes it a proper contest, exactly what Ross does, exactly how Feek goes about his scrummaging.

    What sort of scrum coach would John Hayes be? How does immense strength and durability help a coach?

    The NIQ situation with regard the 2 world class tightheads was never fairly dealt with in public. What happened is very simple: Munster had a tighthead crisis due to the decision to cast off Buckley and the realisation that they probably wouldn’t get out of their Heineken Cup group with Stephen Archer starting. Hayes was kept as backup until they were safe and then he was allowed to retire finally. The IRFU themselves would have broken whatever rules to solve that problem. Munster don’t appear to have a functioning scouting network so they tend to focus on the obvious, i.e. poaching Botha. Ulster were allowed a replacement by way of compensation; on sober reflection, Fitzpatrick has benefited well from Afoa and his stock has gone up. With his injury record someone was needed anyway.

    It was very much a case of fixing something that wasn’t broken, but it was an excellent moment to shift the blame. Kidney clearly has a lot of influence on the contracts, but putting him on the board, sidelines the rest of the board, because it’s harder to contradict him. If there’re wage arguments, the coach is kept aloof so his relationship with the player isn’t damaged. Kidney can deflect any questions about money, because he’s not involved in that sort of thing. He was also kept completely out of the furore when the NIQ rules were changed. No one attacked him, it was the blazers who took it. All Kidney had to do was stay quiet and he wasn’t part of the story.

    If he thought it was madness, he had scope to do something about it quietly before it was announced. His recent quotes show that it’s right along his way of thinking though. Provincial success with a different system is a problem for him.

    Saturday’s game was important because it showed just how far behind we are. We did certain things well, but the slow game plan was brutally exposed as anachronistic. What was worse was that we tried to speed up our game past our own level of control and they just sat there and pounced on the inevitable mistakes. They knew where we were going before we did because we were looking at using those aspects of their game. We were horribly predictable. There were almost no pick and gos from us, Murray had zero carries, when that’s his party trick and their defence fanned right out.

  3. Great article,

    Nice to see some incisive and intelligent rugby analysis.

    I think the Tom Brady quote at the start is an ideal description of Irish Rugby which rang true in the World Cup, I think after the victory against Australia players got a bit ‘too up’ and didn’t give the Welsh the respect they deserved, and we all saw what happened. Likewise, after last Saturday calls for disbanding Irish rugby were over the top as well.

    Also, I think market scarcity of experienced backrows dictated Leamy’s ability to negotiate a good deal while the same force in reverse has been hampering Fitzgerald. Why pay an exorbitant price for Fitzgerald when you have 3/4 guys in the academy who are willing to do the same thing for a fraction of the price, add into that mix Zebo, O’Halloran, Gilroy etc and you can see why the IRFU are happy to have the gun to their head when they know they have all the bullets in their pocket.

    • The shortage of experienced backrows is indeed a problem. If Heaslip, O’Brien, Ferris, Henry, O’Mahoney, Coughlan, McLaughlin, Dom Ryan, Donncha Ryan, Ruddock, and at the time of the contract Wallace all get injured, we’ve very few guys capable of stepping in.

      • I would consider 4 of the 11 you have listed as having international experience at the time. And whereby I agree entirely with what you’re saying the IRFU have always notoriously slow the throw inexpereinced guys in the deep end – particularly at test level

    • Leamy, at his age, and with his recent history of injuries, presumably agreed to the first offer the IRFU made him. He probably couldn’t believe his luck.

      The process with Fitzgerald has been a protracted one, and the Union counted him down from being one of the squad’s higher earners to a salary commensurate with his fringe status. Clearly, the Union wanted to keep him under contract. They probably just got fed up with what they perceived as brinkmanship. Fitzgerald gambled on a dazzling HC and summer tour bringing his value back up. He lost.

  4. Reading the above synopsis the thought occurred to me that what is really going on here is that the suits at the IRFU are being shown up as complacent and, dare I say it, not up to the job.

    Leinster have moved the dial for Irish rugby in terms of the levels for professionalism
    both on and off the field and they are reaping the rewards with a fantastically successful squad, fully engaged supporters and an off field organisation that’s tuned into what’s needed at this level. Ulster under Humphries are moving rapidly in the same direction and both provinces are focussed on their Academies to produce the next generations of players. Munster have been left behind to some degree and while they have the facilities and the support, their squad has grown old and they’re struggling to replenish because the necessary investment in the Academy was too late arriving, however they will get this right as well. Connacht have upped their game as well and, in particular, the Academy is very successful in supplying players to the National U20s over the past number of years and their senior team is only 3 or 4 players away from being very competitive. They have also made strides in improving match attendances and building support.

    Where does that leave the IRFU and the national Team? Your article indicates a level of complacency (I’m really thinking incompetence) in their approach, what exactly does Eddie Wrigglesworth do in his role? Should he not be making the support structures the best they can be so that Kidney and his Team can operate at the highest level. The various committees and the way they operate looks totally antiquated in a modern business environment, this allows Kidney to hide behind other peoples decisions and make his problem sound like someone else’s. The solution to this is close at hand just look at how well run Leinster are and the template for success is there. All the provincial teams are building successful environments which ultimately feed the national team, this is the way it should be. (BTW. the IRFU’s management of the club game is another discussion, but they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory is this area either, for what it’s worth).

  5. I don’t think it would be the best thing for Irish rugby if Schmidt were to take over the national side. Whether by chance evolution or by intelligent design, we now have three highly-reputed technical coaches in charge of the major rugby provinces, where they will have more time and opportunity to improve the skills, fitness and tactical awareness of our elite rugby players. Their work at that level will be more valuable to Irish rugby in general than their work at the elite level could be, where most of the time is taken up in familiarising players with gameplans and new teammates.

    For me, O’Shea would be the better fit, as he has a history as a coordinator and organiser more than as a coach. His appointment would not weaken the subsystem in the way that Schmidt’s would. He’s a big-picture thinker, and Ireland need someone at the highest level who can imagine what kind of game the country should be looking to play, while also having the charm and negotiation skills to deal with the Union in the throes of its bean-counting.

    • I agree. I also think that the provincial divisions are becoming a little more poisonous and that it’d be better if an outside manager with no provincial baggage could come in and do a job where his every action won’t be accused of being loaded with bias.

      Maybe that’s not a particularly important point, but in a lot of post-match conversations [and post-article comments in national newspapers’ websites] it comes down to a black and white ‘Kidney’s a shite coach’/’The players aren’t good enough’ divide on predictably partisan lines.

      It’d be good all around if we could just park that. O’Shea has the Terenure College/Lansdowne RFC background and his old man was a famous Kerry All-Ireland winner – but he’s never been involved in either the Munster or Leinster professional set-ups, and he’s made his admin bones in the UK. He played for Ireland, but spent the majority of his career at London Irish. All those factors would seem to put him above the usual Leinster/Munster/Ulster bickering.

      He’s got the diplomacy and the cool head to get pretty much everybody onside, and he seems like a dude who has been a success at pretty much every level.
      The fact that he keeps himself so visible over here commentating and analyzing on RTE [while he’s the Quins Director of Rugby] I take as an encouraging sign as well.

  6. How about Mike Ruddock?? He’s already in the system and is a grand slam winner and is doing a good job with the U20’s.

  7. As always with Mole, you have posed some very pertinent questions. Only one significant disagreement with your analysis. There is more than one way to scrummage in any given situation and it depends on the combination of the two opposing props. In summary, you can scrummage with your angles or with your power / strength.
    If you are good enough you can use your legs properly to utilise all your big muscles – possibly the last great exponent on the loose head side in the NH was the French running prop, CHRISTIAN CALIFANO. 1.80m. 110kg. a remarkable player in the tradition of Pascal Ondarts, Jean-Paul Garuet and Laurent Seigne and long regarded one of the world’s best. Was first choice in his position by the 1995 and 1999 World Cup and only injury kept him out of the 2003 team. In my view, Watremez (22 years old Biarritz and just joined Montpelier) may be a follower in this tradition but we have our own version in Cian Healy.
    Within the next 12 months, Ireland should have the capacity to select from Healy, Ross, Fitzpatrick, McGrath, Furlong, McAllister, Court & Kilcoyne. Wilkinson, Hagan and Loughney will also be in the mix, if they get sufficient competitive game-time and that is not at AIL level.
    New scrum Coach needs to recognise that not all props will be built like Castrogiovanni or John Hayes. Feek absolutely understands this as he was no giant himself and he has done a great job in growing Healy’s reputation to a point where the only guys who attack him are those he hasn’t met before. However, no magic was worked on Hagan in the last 12 months so it takes more than coaching expertise to bring all the parts together

  8. Don’t want to keep going over old ground – there are people who’ve gone crazy still insisting they were right and there is so much to agree with in that piece (which is brilliantly put together) but…….. I would dispute your conclusion that kidney will be a lame duck after this series. Really it will all come down to the six nations and that would be reasonable.

    They say all political careers end in failure at some stage and I suppose it is true enough for head coaches too. Should kidney’s time come then, well o’shea would appear an outstanding candidate….and i think you are right – he’d go for it. But if Ireland are going well by that stage it would be better to go through to the world cup with the incumbent team. Certainly the irfu shouldn’t be making appointments on mob rule though- “we don’t like him, he hates: munster /ulster /leinster /connacht.”…../exiles(?!)

    I think you have a point about the partisan nature of much of the comment around this. I’ve no time for that stuff. Many people were calling for kidney to be ushered out within 2 years of the grand slam. That seems like baggage to me. Arguments that say: look at his first game against Argentina, how munster have struggled since he left (?) and that highlight world cup warm-up games… my opinion only add fuel to the more spiteful aspects of parochialism. If this is where we set the bar for criticism then it is a dangerous precedent. I am not, nor never have been a munster fan, but that is just how i see it.

    Regarding the propping situation, this may be overly basic, but kidney did preside over a team which could provide Ireland with 4 of the 5 matchday international front row. It is leinster under Schmidt and his team who have picked that ball up and ran with it. I also don’t think it was that unreasonable to think tony buckley would have ended up a good international. Now there would be another great lament. Gert smal is on record about it, kidney clearly thought it, I sure believed and from memory i think you did too! It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to think court would kick on well in that position either. To date neither have happened and the fallout from that seems to be well documented by ronk, in a typically insightful and challenging post.

    Other than to say that you’ve very selectively quoted bod…..he did also say at the weekend how big a step up from rabbo and heineken that first test was! (and i don’t think you could say he was just towing the party line)…….there is much to agree with and brilliantly put together as always.

    • The Drico quote isn’t supposed to represent a reflection on that particular match against the All Blacks, Paddy O. It’s something that I’ve heard him say a number of times with regard to Ireland, Leinster and his own game.

      With regards to Mushy and Tom Court, my point isn’t that they never should have been capped, it’s that they’ve received a pretty high number of caps for guys who were never really starters. How bad would it have been if Brett Wilkinson had got 4-5 of Court’s caps [he’s still uncapped at test level] or if Hagan had been selected for a couple of Mushy’s caps and all John Hayes’ gametime in the November 2010 Internationals?

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