There are always a dozen good reasons why a team loses a relatively close match – invariably, some of them are to do with the other crowd playing well.
Some people have a tendency to go a bit bonkers in the wake of an Irish loss, especially an Irish loss to England. If it’s not the IRFU engineering their poorly thought-through NIQ protocol aimed at ensuring that “Twickenham will never happen again” – there are now non-Irish-qualified first choice tightheads at three provinces, rather than two – it’s bluffers on the internet saying that that was the worst Irish performance in years. It wasn’t.
Just like Wikipedia isn’t always entirely reliable [really?], ESPN Scrum.com isn’t the ne plus ultra of rugby statistic sites. However, it’s a good rough guide to the game.
This wasn’t a particularly difficult game to understand; repeated watching will tell you the same thing, not impart a cosmic understory to the initiated. The major reasons England won were:
- 1] Irish handling errors;
- 2] a superior kicking game;
- 3] excellent defensive discipline;
- 4] Irish injuries in the first half
Manos de Piedra
Knock-ons suck the life out of a team, especially when they keep on occurring. It’s impossible to generate momentum, it’s difficult to stretch a defense through a number of phases and generate mismatches, it’s difficult to maintain a grip on territory and it’s obviously difficult to score tries. It should go without saying that you’re going to have problems winning a game with those hindrances, unless the opposition team is ludicrously indisciplined and gives away a lot of kickable penalties when they have possession of the ball.
One of the oldest saws in rugby goes that conditions are the same for both teams. Sometimes you have to laugh, because if you’re playing Fiji or Australia in a November downpour in Dublin, they’ve practically no experience of operating in those conditions; while they might be “the same for both teams”, one team has a huge bank of practical experience to which the other just doesn’t have access. It’s like going to live in Alaska and having to listen to the Inuits take the piss for not knowing how to build an igloo. Go f*ck yerselves, Inuits.
Anyway, there should be no reason for Irish players or teams to be unfamiliar with wet-weather rugby; if anything, we should be the masters of it. We could’ve written the book on wet-weather rugby …
… and the curious thing is that it looks like we had both written and read it. Ireland weren’t trying to play with width or putting in speculative passes or offloads; indeed, we were playing a fairly basic, conservative game that suited the conditions, but our execution of basic skills [doubtless made more difficult by the weather conditions and a hard-hitting English defense] was extremely poor. Jamie Heaslip and Mike McCarthy made the most high profile errors – each of them knocking on twice in open play – but there were plenty of mistakes to go around. While it’d be more frustrating to watch a team go out and mess up a bunch of times trying to play rugby that was totally unsuitable to the conditions, it’s almost as bad watching them botch a reasonable [if unimaginative] gameplan.
Kick For Victory
Kicking played a massive role in the game. All told, there were 101 kicks, easily more than one a minute … and The Mole has gone and documented them all in classic statto fashion; Sunday games and tryless losses will do that to a man. Bring out the paisley dressing gown and pour me a mug of strong tea.
Don’t let it stop you checking out this peerless busy work [as ever, click to embiggen], but as stated above, there’s no real secret behind the stats: England just kicked better than we did. They also fielded better than we did [i.e. they didn’t make any ordinary kicks better than they were – while we did, most notably through Jamie Heaslip’s knock-ons, but also from some faffing about at the back by O’Gara], and they certainly chased better than we did, turning bad kicks into ordinary kicks, and ordinary kicks into good kicks.While goal-kicking outhalf Owen Farrell won most of the plaudits as the architect of Ireland’s defeat, all three of England’s primary kickers – OH Farrell, SH Youngs and FB Goode – had very effective days with the boot.
Sexton was putting along relatively well, and a projection of his 30 mins worth of kicking would have him producing a performance very like that of Farrell. Conor Murray relied almost exclusively on his box-kicking – some of it was very good, others were far too long for any chaser to possibly reach. Unfortunately, Sexton’s replacement O’Gara had a poor day with the boot, especially by his high standards.
In comparison to a missed placekick, a short linekick from a penalty hardly ever gets more than a one-line mention or a throwaway note from the commentators … and yet it has a significant effect on the shape of the game. 10m or 15m gains are nowhere near good enough from a dead ball; even a 20m kick is inadequate. As we say in Mole Towers, “you could throw it further with your bad hand”. You need to be gaining 30m down the line, getting the ball into the opposition 22, establishing a good position for an attacking lineout and putting their line under pressure.
At this stage of his career, ROG doesn’t have much to his game bar his kicking abilities, and while there was ballyhoo from the blowhard Hook [“the best defensive kicker in the world”] and a lot of encouraging noises from the commentary team of Ryle Nugent and Donal Lenihan about how Ireland couldn’t possibly have a better substitute than O’Gara given the conditions, an overview of his kicking game would conclude that it was below par. His entire display was predictable and underwhelming, though not quite as disastrous as some would make out.Good Table Manners In The Ref, The Prefects Are About
While England as a team kicked well, the outstanding aspect of their performance – despite the fact that they eventually conceded 14 penalties – was the discipline of their defense in their own half.
They only conceded three kickable penalties in 80 minutes of rugby, in a game played away from home in difficult weather. Not giving away a kickable penalty in the first forty minutes was extremely impressive, a testimony to Andy Farrell and the belief that the young English players have in each other and their coaches’ systems.
It also had a significant effect on the shape of the game. Ireland were hamstringing themselves with handling errors, and the English defence weren’t giving them anything cheaply. The team in green had more of the ball, had the more reliable set-pieces, won the territorial battle, were penalised less often, ran for more metres, made more clean breaks, beat more defenders … but they couldn’t get on the scoreboard, and they couldn’t really generate any momentum.
Random Acts Of Injurious Misfortune
Simon Zebo broke his foot running sometime around the tenth minute; Jonny Sexton pulled his hamstring kicking a ball on the ground after about half an hour.
These are just random injuries – there’s no explanation for them. There was no foul play involved, no unfortunate collisions or brave tackles … the two lads just got injured doing things that they do every single day.
While his replacement Keith Earls did a fine job and looked dangerous with the ball in hand on a couple of occasions, Zebo’s loss was perhaps a bigger blow than just losing his on-field abilities. Because of his recent explosion on to the rugby world’s consciousness and the willingness of the crowd to get themselves involved any time he looked like coming near the ball, something intangible but genuine was lost. Wow, that sounds like complete spoof, but you know what I mean.
Sexton’s loss was significantly more tangible. A breaking threat, a long kicking game, a rock-solid defender, a playmaker who can get his backline moving … O’Gara is a step down in all these categories at this stage of his career. It’s not entirely his fault, by any means: he’s less than a month shy of 36 and he doesn’t pick himself [although the second point is moot, because he would if he could].
Declan Kidney’s comments to the media are usually so bland as to be meaningless, but The Mole found himself in the strange position of nodding in agreement reading a quote in the paper yesterday morning: we’re still in this tournament, and with a dollop of luck we could still be in the reckoning for the title on the last weekend. Wales are a confidence team, and despite the fact that their game against France was almost unwatchable, they got themselves over the line – that will give them a huge boost, and likely make sure that they’re still competitive on the last day of the tournament, when England travel to the Millennium Stadium.
With Ryan Jones back from injury and Alun-Wyn Jones to return in the second row, their pack will be significantly better-equipped to take on the English eight … all the moreso if Howley doesn’t succumb to sentiment and pick the out-of form Sam Warburton over the in-form Justin Tipuric. With a Lions tour in the offing, there’s still a huge amount to play for on an individual-by-individual basis, so expect that to be a massive clash.
On a final note, The Mole would like to commend French referee Jerome Garces on his performance. It’s often said that if a referee goes unmentioned in match reports, he’s had a good game. While Garces wasn’t perfect [he didn’t referee the offside line well, for one thing, and he also missed Healy’s blatant stamp on Cole’s ankle] he dealt with a testy atmosphere very well. Kudos!
Basically agree with everything. Would add that, although the pack should be credited for their scrummaging, as a unit they seemed to have enormous trouble securing quick ball. Of course, the few times they did, a knock on or kick seemed to follow almost immediately, but I thought this played a big part in the lacklustre attacking performance.
Sexton was missed enormously. It’s been said hundreds of times at this point, but Madigan should be in there.
Great article, hidden away in an obscure corner of the web.
George Hook gets to write for a national paper and analyses for the national broadcaster. This country is not a meritocracy!
Going back to your, err, second point I think (before all that kicking stuff)… is Michael Bent not considered Irish? Or will he always have Irish-born Irish players placed ahead of him by default?
Great detail, I think everyone knew we kicked poorly but you lads backed it up with the stats. From my count, we were in the English 22 5 times in the opening 30 minutes and came away with no points, that is inexcusable, the English defence is astoundingly quick, and we were struggling to get across the gainline, one of the low points of Kidney’s reign has been our insipid backplay, we seem to have no moves and often just shift the ball along the line, hoping for an overlap or a gap to exploit, it seems to rely on individual brilliance as opposed to a great team move a lot of the time. In the first 30 minutes with Sexton on, that was a big issue, if we get a try and a penalty from 2 of those 22 trips we are in a comfy position, instead we came away with nothing.
With ROG on the game is over, he can’t run a backline and his kicking has diminished greatly in length if not accuracy (this could be questioned as well of course). Ireland cannot play him in the next game or more if needs be, we will lose with him, we could well get hammered with Jackson or Madigan but we would have a better shot with them there, ROG can’t run a backline and his kicking is getting worse, he shouldn’t be starting big games for Munster, the media seem to gloss over his ineptness strangely enough, he is “Radge” like.
With Sexton injured, we do not have an outhalf of International standard Period. Neither Madigan nor Jackson has commanded the total confidence of their Provincial coaches. Indeed, it is rumoured that Leinster is seeking an overseas player to replace Sexton. And let’s be honest, Leinster were not good enough to make the playoffs of the HC this season – not for one minute a failure attributable to Madigan.
Ireland as a team and a composite of its provincial player base is in comparative decline, Ulster perhaps excepted.
Regarding the lack of out-halves, what we actually have is a once-great, two possibles/pretenders and a solid journeyman in Ian Keatley who is at least a far more consistent performer (albeit short of International class) than Madigan or Jackson.
It is not the job of the National Coach to produce Internationals. It is the job of the Provincial ones.
The provincial coaches aren’t entirely free to produce internationals, or you’d have to think that Keatley (playing better for Munster this season than O’Gara by many accounts) would be getting picked.
There’s also an innate conservativism in Irish rugby at the moment, in part because the generation (vague term I know) of players to which O’Gara belongs is the most successful in Irish history and thusly the selectors over the years have been reluctant to replace/jettison players who have given the coaches, the team, the nation so much back in return. In many cases, injuries and retirement has in fact moved on many players of that generation. A kind of “injury as best selector” writ large if you will.
Many of those players got their initial chances with far less qualification than the understudies do today. I agree that Madigan just plainly doesn’t have the experience under his belt this season, but next season, he will. It’s probably too soon for him. Keatley and Jackson have a lot to offer Ireland right now and in the future. They’ll probably never have the career that O’Gara has had, but that’s not the criteria needed. O’Gara offers us nothing beyond this season in reality, although his experience does mean that in the extreme short term, he offers us some strengths.
Secondly, it should be added that you cannot (by definition) prove you are international class at club level. At some stage the coaches and selectors have to take a calculated gamble that the players at the level below can make the step up. It’s always a gamble and always will be. We seem terrified to gamble, in part because the team isn’t *that* bad at all. It doesn’t require major surgery at all. But picking ROG is, if you ask me, a dead end. I don’t think his experience even justifies his place on the bench any more, let alone starting.
Yes, the National coaches/selectors pick the players. But they use Provincial selection/performances as part of the criteria. Here, they also have a degree of influence over what game time individuals are given.
In reality, great teams and players tend to be picked beyond their performance peaks. True in all sports to some degree – GAA, Soccer have numerous examples. This is also demanded by the fans who “pay to see the greats”. Look at the age-profile of Munster, for example and you will see two ends of the age spectrum with little in the middle. Similarly with many other clubs and many International sides. It is 10 years since England were at their best with not much achievement since their WC in 2003. Ulster have had longer in the wilderness. Leinster is starting its decline with no clear replacements for many greats. The bad news is a 10 year cycle is not unusual.
Who to pick at O/H now? To my mind it is a toss-up between ROG and Keatley with the other on the bench.
Sure Deccie is forever telling us that International rugby us a step up from HC rugby so he clearly sees himself as the King-maker of Irish rugby.
I don’t agree that Jackson doesn’t have the confidence of the coaches and I would put him to the front of the queue for a shot at the jersey.
After Ulsters 3 World Cup winners, Jackson is the next name on the sheet. Ulster have built their play around him this season and he has played all their big games bar one where Ulsters back play suffered enormously.
He has also started a HC final and while he had a poor game, he has clearly improved for the experience. Keatley is tussling with ROG and Madge is playing full back so to throw either in to a 6N game at 10 would be a bridge too far.
Pretty spot on. It wasn’t the end of the world. The guys weren’t great but they weren’t much behind England apart from being all thumbs and not having / using a kicker – except for one who now has the ability in that regard of Ethel The Tea Lady. Ronan’s overall contribution can be completely described in a five letter word. Inept. We lost an arm wrestle by 6 points while playing with 14 men and a pale shadow. The awful thing is, Kidney and his highly paid coaching staff can’t or more likely refuse to see it, Tremenjus wouldn’t see it if it fell on him, Conor George isn’t capable of seeing it, Thornley probably doesn’t want to see it as he’d lose Deccie’s inside track (unlike his assassination of EOS for far less). The first lot who can actually see it are the players in the squad. They now know how poor ROG is. Imagine how they would feel if Danny La Rue came on to replace BOD? Probably not a whole lot worse. Even a lot of Munster fans realise that the great man’s race is run and that Keatley is a far better player these days. ROG is an absolutely top man in the squad. Ask any of the young Ulster guys who are now on the edge of the team who was the most supportive and helpful and you’ll find it was Ronan while one or two others apparently were the exact opposite. However while I didn’t intend to make this post about him it’s difficult to steer it away from his performance and the future with Sexton unavailable.
It should be his last game for Ireland, but it won’t be. He will probably start at 10 with Jackson on the bench for the remaining three games of the Championship.
I would be shocked, extremely shocked if this doesn’t happen. And Jackson will barely get a kick too.
Mole, brilliant stuff. How this is not your job and yet some others can make their corn from rugby clichés and mixed metaphors? Staggering. Great article, and I can’t find fault with any of the analysis (although I have yet to go through the match kick-by-kick and see if I agree with your cross/equivocation/tick-that-kick! system..).
Good analysis. I think statistically we came out well interms of scrums and lineouts won but I can’t help but feel we were dominated physicallly in the contact areas — especially around the fringes (granted our maul operated well but I feel this is as much a function of field position where England were more interested in defending fringes than counter mauling). This manifested itself in slow ball, static offensive lines and more dangerously a defensive line poised to close down our space/time.
In American football they measure the number of ‘wins’ a defensive player has in a game — these can be in the form of qback sacks, throw deflections or (most pertinantly to rugby) tackles behind the gain line. Whilst I wouldn’t suggest re-trawling through the game (unless you are an advocate of self flaggelation) I would be very interested in seeing the splits as a truer reflection of defensive dominance. While I’m at it — yards (or metres) after contact would also be useful if you find yourself in a pause button driven rewatch scenario again. I suspect England dominated both these categories both as a percentage of tackles made and as an aggregate.
Great article lads.
Despite the fact that ROG was shite, the most depressing thing from my point of view was the return to the aimless shovel ball in the backline, even accounting for the weather. I really thought that after the Argie and Wales games, where we actually had backline moves, depth, multiple options and dummy runners, and reaped handsome rewards from it, that the penny would have dropped.
Nope, lets return to slowly shovelling the ball on to the next man standing flat and stationary.
Actually that just reminded me that we have also returned to the static forward one outs. How much longer left on the Kidney clock?
The suggestion that O’Gara shouldn’t have even been on the bench is retarded. Ian Madigan has started one H-Cup game at 10 – one… At home, against a half-arsed Montpellier…. A year ago… There remain serious question marks over his game management and goal-kicking (despite a very solid kicking performance on the weekend). Paddy Jackson is 20 years old and, as well as having a serious drop-off in form before Christmas, is clearly lacking in big-game experience. Oh wait, that is unless you count his absolute shocker in the H-Cup final last year.
ROG was piss-poor on Sunday but the guy has experience and big-game temperament in spades. If I was facing into a pressure cooker game like every game lately seems to be for Ireland lately, I think Kidney is perfectly justified to include Ireland’s record point scorer, double H-Cup winner, Grand Slam winner, >100 cap ROG on the bench over two lads with less than ten H-Cup starts between them at 10. I know who I’d want lining a match-winning kick.
A more pertinent question would be whether O’Gara should play after showing serious signs of decline on Sunday or a punt (and it is a massive punt) should be taken on Keatley/Madigan/Jackson.
If ROG has big-game temperament in spades then where was it? We don’t know what the other three have to offer at an international level yet, but we do know what O’Gara offers…nothing. If he doesn’t have the ability to perform at this level then this supposed big-game temperament stands for zip.
Agree completely. L2B2’s argument ignores that fact that he is, certainly from everything I’ve seen this year, past it and therefore is just not a viable option any more. One could make precisely the same case to pick Ollie Campbell ahead of Madigan.
He doesn’t look the shadow of a player with big game temperament but he does look like a player with over 100 caps with a couple too many. The slam was 4 years ago when he was 31/32. He looks slow increasingly limited and vulnerable.
I’d take issue with the mole saying he’d pick himself. he should have been allowed to retire when he wanted after RWC11. They had no business persuading him too stay on. If he says it’s time to go then stick by your player welfare principles(Paddy Jackson playing thru injury in a wolfhounds game) and wish him well. I think he’ll be hoping for the return of Sexton as much as everyone else including his cheerleaders in the press.
If the teams performances improve then so too will his, but it will be the team carrying him over the line rather than him steering the team to victory. His weaknesses have become the focus of the oppositions game plan as the game against Quins will soon prove even if Scotland are too inept to take advantage.
The blame can also go to the IRFU; didn’t they offer him a central contract in the last two years or have I just made this up?
Well that’s one interpretation of his comments at RWC11. Another would be that he made those comments to pressure the coaches into picking him – which they did – and we lost. ROG is a media manipulator extraordinaire and I don’t believe for a second he truly wanted to retire, especially seeing as, if memory serves, he still had a further 12 months left on his central contract at the time.
A life in politics could well await him yet.
Conor Murray had zero, yes zero, HC starts, and only 7 starts in total in professional rugby, before he started the WC QF. Not having a go at Murray, but rather the hypocracy of this type of thinking.
Fact is that ROG has bucket loads of experience, but it’s counting for nothing if he can’t turn that into a performance. We may as well pick Tony Ward against Scotland – after all he has the experience of beating the All Blacks.
Each of Keatley, Madigan and Jackson are better players now than ROG. Frankly I would consider it as big a risk as playing ROG, but with a much bigger upside, so I would go ahead and add JJ Hanrahan to that list too.
If I was picking the team, I’d go with Jackson at 10, bring in McFadden at 14 for the kicking duties and probably have Keatley on the bench (that bit more mature than Madigan).
In fairness, the RWC QF was Murray’s fifth cap and he was Munster’s incumbent scrum half at the time, which put him in the mix in the first place… I’d also say there’s a considerable difference between 10 and 9 in terms of responsibility, especially how Ireland play. 10 is the main man in the Irish team and throwing in a guy because he has had a few decent games in the Rabo (Madigan) is an absolute joke.
I think in general people are so keen for revolution over evolution; perhaps having seen what has happened with Wales and England overhauling their teams in last two years and the success it has created. There has been such a clamour for so many unproven talents to be included in the Irish set up, Luke Marshall, Ian Madigan, Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson, Craig Gilroy, JJ Hanrahan to name a few… The fact remains that none of the above are automatic choices for their provinces. If they can’t get their game at provincial level, why oh why should they start for their country… And yet this is a stick used to beat Kidney. If Kidney is at fault for anything it is inconsistent performances and occasionally ropey game plans, generally not selection.
Joe Schmidt, who borders on God-like status with most Irish rugby fans, is an extremely conservative selector, for example; Jennings and McLaughlin, ahead of Ruddock and Ryan. Bringing in Goodman and moving D’Arcy to 13 instead of blooding Macken. Anscombe in Ulster has also been conservative, Trimble for Gilroy, Wallace for Marshall, Brady for Annett, Jackson and Henderson benched for the must-win trip to Castres. If, in the infinite wisdom of these coaches, these players do not deserve the nod for big H-Cup games then why the fuck should they get their game for Ireland?
Also, many punchy selections from Kidney in the last few years have been justified; Zebo at full back for his second cap, Sexton starting against SA for his second cap. Also, he has not been guilty of the English sin of throwing in a young talent and discarding them at the first sight of indifferent form, e.g. Anthony Allen, James Simpson-Daniel, Mathew Tait. I can’t think of any Kidney picks who have fallen off the radar having been given their first couple of caps.
Ireland’s inconsistency has been maddening at times but Kidney isn’t up there with a Playstation controller and the players need to share some of the flak. Game plan, selection, mental preparation – coach. Execution of game plan, discipline, basic skills – players. Poor handling and kicking, which in my opinion were the main reasons Ireland lost, are the responsibility of the players, not Kidney.
Anyways, I think most people have missed my point, which was was simply that Kidney was justified in having ROG on the bench. He is (probably) Munster’s starting 10 after all.
Given myriad factors; his age and the need for a successor, difference between his natural game and what Ireland are trying to play and his form I wouldn’t start him against Scotland but anyway
Yeah L2B2 the hypocracy is astounding. You sum it up in the first paragraph there.
Re Schmidt conservatism. You’re conveniently ignoring the fact that Schmidt varies his approach between home and away, going for the more conservative approach away. It’s not tunnel vision. The decision to sign Goodman had a lot to do with injuries. He’s a 12/10 and Macken hadn’t enough games under his belt at Rabo level never mind HEC. Your ignoring the nature of weekly competition. Leinster were down to academy players when they signed Goodman and even then were rushing Isa Nasewa back from injury.
No Kidney isn’t guilty of that English “sin” as TOL(he had to unpick himself from that RWC squad)Tony Buckley, Andrew Trimble, at various times Darcy, DOC and many more will testify. So where’s that left us……with ROG. Who by the way hasn’t been poor to indifferent lately, as you put it, but from the start of the season to now.
You can’t be sure that he is the starting 10, given Kidneys power to dictate to the provinces like Zebo at fullback for Munster in the run up to the SA game.
I initially regretted using the word hypocracy because I felt I was unfairly assuming that you would defend one instance while criticizing another. I see now that I was absolutely correct to use it.
That whole first paragraph is such a pearl I couldn’t continue to read the rest of your response. I especially liked the end of it – “throwing in a guy because he has had a few decent games in the Rabo (Madigan) is an absolute joke.” – now compare that sentence with the afore mentioned selection of Murray, and for that matter with Kilcoyne’s replacement of Court (neither of which I am against, just decrying the hypocracy being displayed here), with Madigan being one of the form OH’s in the Rabo over the past two season, and with a decent amount of HC experience to boot.
BTW, I’m an advocate of Jackson starting (with Ferg to come in for Zebo to take the kicks) and Keatley on the bench, but there is no doubt in my mind that Madigan would be much better in either of those positions than ROG at the moment.
Look at ROG’s last three appearances for Ireland – against England, Argentina and South Africa. All three performances littered with personal errors (maybe littered is a little unfair in the latter two mentioned games as he was only on for a short time, but in that time he made two errors against Argentina and one against S. Africa). His high error count has also been a significant feature in many of Munster’s games this year.
He is a legend, but now he is unable to perform at the top level, with severe question marks over his ability to even perform at the level below that.
Firstly, it’s spelled hypocrisy. Secondly, you’re missing my point that Murray was the first choice 9 for Munster when he got his first caps for Ireland. Madigan is firmly the second choice for Leinster and there’s no indication that he’ll be first choice at Leinster after Sexton leaves either. My point was that if you are first choice for your province then this should count for something. It makes sense too; as the interprovincial coaches see the players day in – day out making them well-placed to make judgements on players. Also, if you are first choice for your province you will inevitably get exposure to big matches against high-class opposition which will test you and improve you as a player.
Also, if you want my honest opinion, I think Murray was undercooked for his first few caps and he probably didn’t deserve his spot at the time.
Paddy – Trimble has 50 caps, he’s hardly a young buck who’s been casually been cast aside after an uninspiring debut, as my examples were. Also, Court over Kilcoyne – seriously? The only edge he has is in the scrum and I’ve yet to see Kilcoyne get beaten up in the scrum despite coming up against serious operators like Ducalcon, Nieto and Gill…
ROG’s contribution to Irish rugby is not in question but his current usefulness is.
He used to be the man who wouldn’t give up no matter how much of a spanking Ireland were getting. Now he looks like he can’t really be bothered.
He was never much of a bosh merchant but would always put his body on the line for the cause (he even picked a fight with Roncero a few times) so the sight of him falling over to avoid taking a heavy hit was a comedic example of how far his international star has faded.
Aside from the frankly tasteless language of your first sentence, what has Paddy Jackson’s age got to do with anything? Lancaster pitched a then-20-yr-old Owen Farrell into the England team for last year’s 6 Nations and he didn’t suffer from it. I know they’re different players but it shows a coach looking towards a national team’s future versus one relying on its past.
Firstly, Lancaster pitched Owen Farrell in at 13 rather than 10 for his first couple of caps to bed him in. Secondly, I’d say that Lancaster picked Farrell with the foresight that the kid has a serious head on his shoulders and real potential and I’d have to say this has been justified recently, despite some very ropey performances in his first few caps. I think in many cases a coach can pick a player ahead of his time in the belief that they’ll grow into the role, as in the case of Farrell. Kidney clearly doesn’t have that kind of faith and, given his current contract situation, he can’t afford to have a punt. Also, no offence intended with the language.
Fair enough with everything there, esp your last sentence, but I suppose it still highlights that a player’s age should only be considered in relation to his temperament for the task in hand. Farrell’s latter quality certainly seems to belie his birthdate and your point is well made about him starting at 13, thus absolving him of being required to run the show for his first few caps, which I’d forgotten about. But I suppose I’d subscribe to the argument that if they’re good enough, they’re old enough.
The debate of course is as much whether, at 20, Jackson IS currently (a) good enough and (b) better than ROG in terms of starting v Scotland and in terms of those two questions I would have to say he doesn’t currently have as strong a case (ref: taking a backseat to Pienaar for goalkicking of late etc).
On current form I would say that, had Madigan made the squad, he would currently have a stronger case as he’s playing and kicking well for Leinster in Sexton’s absence through Ireland commitments / injuries the past few weeks.
The mitigating factors against him are that these performances have been against weakened PRO12 oppositions and his mettle hasn’t been tested at 10 for Leinster in many (arguably any) big games, this season or last (when he also deputised well during RWC11 etc). His Heineken exposure this season has been at 15 for the first four games (a position I don’t think he’s suited to or comfortable in), the last 9 mins of a long-won game v the Scarlets and 2 mins replacement in the centre for BOD at Exeter.
It’s this lack of exposure that Kidney is presumably passing him over for, but it makes it an easier choice for him (Kidney) to pick ROG over Jackson as neither are in great form so ROG’s experience gives him the edge. ROG vs Madigan on February’s form would have been a much closer call in both the pundits and the public’s eyes IMO but as the latter’s not in the squad, it’s a moot point for now.
Having watched O’Gara again show how awful he has become against the Scarlets where even their 20 year old 4th choice 10 was taking the p*ss out of him, where he ducked out of the way of contact, where he missed sitters in front of the posts and gave the ball to his 12 as gift wrapped hospital passes all night, where he limply and aimlessly hoofed the ball away without a thought. he was by far the worst player on the pitch. I wonder which ROG you are thinking of? The star of the noughties or the millstone of the present. It’s not his fault that he has got old and lost his talent. It’s entirely the fault of Kidney who can’t see the nose on his face apparently, for selecting a man who is now, lamentably, incapable at this level.
Very good summation Mole.
A couple of observations which I took away from my viewing of the game.
Inclined to agree that Earls improved on last weeks showing but I think we missed a great opportunity off of the blindside break/pass by Murray. Earls pinned his ears back and ran at top speed away from any Irish support. He didn’t even try to beat the English defender but just milled into contact in an uncontrolled manner. We did recycle and I think McCarthy may have spilled a straightforward pass in the next phase. In a game of few clean line breaks it was wasteful.
When you see great players break into space they quickly surmise that they will or will not go all the way and score. If they’re not going to make it they check their pace and evade contact until support players are running lines that will cause fresh problems. Scramble defence will see defenders swarm on the player who makes the line break so if he avoids contact but still attracts those defenders then the will be big gaps for the supporting players. This play by Earls is similar in theme to his headless chicken acceleration out of the line in the Cuthbert try last week.
Just to balance the feedback on Earls, he did really well off of that bullet skip 1 from BOD. Difficult for a winger in that instance as he needs to read the play in precisely the same manner as the ball carrier. If the defending winger was not so committed to the 2nd man (can’t recall who the 2nd Irish player in the line was) then BOD would have just gone regulation through the hands on a 3 v 2. Earls would have had to have kept his depth off of the 2nd Ireland player. To his credit he read the winger rushing in and accelerated early to get there in time for BODs bullet skip pass. He also linked well when he got through the line.
As for ROG, I recall his masterful display when we beat the Wallabies in similar conditions at the old Lansdowne road in 2002. Alas, he is no longer the regenmeister when it comes to match management in trying conditions.
A telling moment came early on when he took a low pass from Darcy (covering for Murray). He couldn’t manufacture the time and space to get a kick away so he did what looked suspiciously like a Quarterback taking a knee. He has no-where near the physicality to cope with International rugby and his evasion skills have diminished to the point that he is more of a liability than ever. He just doesn’t fancy it so should not be there.
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Just a few impressions from Sunday’s game.
1. Healy’s citing and likely suspension may be a good thing in the long run. Great young player but he has a reckless streak and a ban may help him temper it. Good opportunity for Kilcoyne also.
2. The home side appeared nervous and too pumped up while England were their usual workmanlike selves but, apart from Haskell’s yellow card, were unusually disciplined.
3. As witnessed in recent high profile defeats, like the WC quarter final loss to Wales, Ireland seem unable to change tactics on the hoof or adapt a game plan as well as the opposition.
4. Sunday seemed scripted for ROG to come on and save the day but he looked a shadow of his former self. His line kicking especially was woeful but how undercooked was he coming off the bench? Despite his recent drop in form, surely Jackson will be in the mix for the Scots.
5. Depressing to hear the home crowd boo the English kicks. This doesn’t seem to happen in Galway, Limerick or the RDS but was apparent in the Clermont Heineken Cup game earlier this season. Stay classy Aviva.
> The major reasons England won were: 1] Irish handling errors; 2] a superior kicking game; 3] excellent defensive discipline; 4] Irish injuries in the first half
Agree, but just as important was bad decision-making. Specifically in the second half, where we chose kicks at goal over kicks to the corner. Our lineout and maul were working really well, and there were tries to be scored. Our first penalty got us on the scoreboard, but felt like a let-off for England. The missed one, which would’ve made it 12-9, signalled the end of the game. But we can’t blame O’Gara for that — he did well to kick 2 out of 3 tricky ones in tricky conditions. In the circumstances, when it’s a tricky kick at goal, when there’s a perfect angle for going to the corner, when the lineout is working well and the lineout maul is dominant, and when you need more than a penalty to win, kicking to the corner has to be the right choice.
Now let’s get our ducks in a row: can’t blame O’Gara for this, can’t blame Kidney, can’t blame the ref. Out of the usual suspects, the only option is to blame the captain. Did Heaslip make those decisions, or did anyone see O’Driscoll run over and help? If Heaslip made them, then I suppose we can blame Kidney after all, since he’s the one who made Heaslip captain.
All that piece is missing is some instruction on how to build an igloo! Brilliant mole. I would agree that this game was a straightforward arm wrestle, which England were that bit more ready for. They’ve talked a lot about not making 2 succesive mistakes and it was that type of day. The only other factor i’d add to the winning of the game was probably in the respective back rows. We had (arguably) three natural 8s and they had (arguably) three natural 6s. Our lads were trying their hearts out trying to make things happen, while the English were focused on purely breaking up our attack and attacking from the resultant forced and (unfortunately) unforced mistakes. In those conditions and that type of game you’d take low risk 6s over 8s every time. The O’Gara thing makes all the headlines, but I would again agree that it wasn’t just as bad as it is being made out. I would have had sympathy for any of our fly halfs coming into that game like that – not exactly a place to showcase what you can do.
Those saying that O’Gara has been terrible this year, that isn’t really true in my opinion. He had a very good outing against sarries at home and also had a good game in England….right up until saracens had their sin binning. At that point the defenders drifted off O’Gara and covered the guys around him. If he took the gap they attacked him big time; if he passed they covered those men. As you say above it was similar enough to what Wales did at the rwc and Andy Farrell had England well schooled for it at the weekend. I’d be loathe to criticise Penny, as I happen to think he is doing a good job and this is complete hindsight….but Keatley could’ve been sprung at the point of the sin binning. I’ve posted before about Munster using their 3 fly halves to suit what they are facing, allowing them all to contribute and i find it hard to shift the impression that Keatley was under-used in that series.
That defence of O’Gara said, there is one phrase out there which has bugged me for some time now. It’s this notion that none of the younger 10s have stepped up to the plate. I’m not buying. All 3 have demonstrated at different times that they can do it. Particularly so with Madigan. He has had to adapt to playing 15 and although it is somewhat out of his comfort zone he has battled impressively in some very patched up Leinster backlines. He has been as good as anyone in pro 12 as a fly half for this past 2 years playing in a very threatening style. His defence is tough, brave and accurate. His game management has been on a learning curve and despite some criticisms this year – he was harshly panned by the critics for the Osprey’s game away, despite doing everything well except demand the ball from his 8 and 9 at scrum time – Schmidt has persisted with putting him out there. Schmidt’s handling of his development has been absolutely brilliant from what I can see back here in the cheap seats. Finally, his kicking from hand and tee gets better by the week. The way his game has progressively improved points to something a bit more substantial than a flash Harry. At the scarlets game when he came on for sexton I personally felt he added to leinster’s attack, which is a fair enough achievement. People don’t see it all on tv, but his urgency getting ball into play as quickly as possible and committing defenders to tackles is excellent. The other thing is that he has that he also posses that waffly thing you say Zebo has. They will need a banner for him in the stand in the rds next year.
I know Jackson hasn’t always totally been your cup of tea, but he too has shown a bit of mettle by putting the Heineken final behind him and executing plays consistently and it is often difficult manouveres close to the gain line. As soon as he missed a few kicks you hear that he doesn’t have it. Again I’m not buying, and although I rate him below madigan, a partnership where a structural-type fly half such as Jackson starts and madigan comes on (as well as covering a few positions) has a lot to like about it. Keatley has saved and created plenty of tries for Munster this year and is also putting together a very decent body of work.
Just a final thing, agree about the ref, but for kearney’s “tap out” it really should have been an Irish penalty. Kearney wasn’t given the opportunity to get onto his feet at all. From that came the 9-6 penalty….not whining, England worked for their win and deserve their credit, but it was pretty unfortunate. The championship is still alive, though Ireland will have to not just win, but put big points on their opponents with England having Italy and France in twickenham. Wales will be thinking similarly with the added bonus that their fate is actually in their own hands.
Excellent post. Thanks for the hard work that went into it.
Mole, we need more of your quality of analysis to educate all of us lazier watchers. As for the game, I bow to your detailed assessment, but would add one factor.
Lancaster’s coaching (or his team of coaches). Even in his 31 mins, Sexton was forced onto his left foot twice, a rare occurence. Kearney was forced onto his (weaker0 right foot three times. BO’D was given at least three inside switches – but each time met Parling & Haskell oin combination before he made the gain line. Lancaster and his management group had analysed who makes Ireland tick and sought to nullify them, with all the passion and urgency of a Clongowes Leinster Senior Cup Final team.
Keep up the great work. Your quality of analysis is just what a starved rugby audience needs
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