Off the Ball: Ireland need to steal All Blacks' methods and become as cynical as streetwise Munster
Published 23/11/2016 | 02:30
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. This second All Blacks game will no doubt prove to be a watershed for Irish rugby.
This is the bit where we become ultra-cynical and don't look back. Maybe we do revere the All Blacks brand just a bit too much, but then again maybe everyone does. That might explain the flabby interpretations of the laws from Jaco Peyper last Saturday when it seemed like a few textbook examples of what World Rugby deem to be red and yellow cards were unfolding unpunished before our eyes.
Maybe it's hard to ignore those perfect black kits and the pre-game war dance and just how famous all their players are. Certainly pre-game, from our vantage point in the backfield at the Aviva at the end where the All Blacks and the referee were simultaneously going through their warm-up, it seemed like they all had a familiarity that no doubt comes from working in the same hemisphere. Still though it's a big aul' pitch Jaco, why the need to warm up right beside the All Blacks? There were a few chats and an odd hello and if being nice to the referee pre-game is an inch the All Blacks will take it.
The response to anyone pointing out the ridiculous levels of high tackles, the unpunished professional-foul penalties in the first half and the general sense that an Irishman needed to be literally decapitated before it would merit a red card has been predictable. Stop whining and the better team won. Blah, blah, blah. Let's see New Zealand beat us with 14 men for an entire half. We'd also definitely be the better team if we could randomly concuss their best players with impunity too.
Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery perhaps we'll take a leaf from the All Blacks and revisit some of the things they accused the referee of after their 2007 World Cup exit. Graham Henry pored over the video of the game and found every instance where he thought his team should have won a penalty. There were more than 40. The only explanation he could offer for his team losing was some vague form of corruption.
Henry is a genius though and realised that his team would need to be on the right side of the law from then on. They fastidiously analysed every part of their own game and changed accordingly. We're pretty close on that front. Just need to nail this cheating malarkey.
We have our version of Graham Henry in the Ireland camp now. This past week has been redolent of the reaction after Neil Back swiped a Heineken Cup from Munster. No-one was ever more cynical afterwards in any situation than Munster.
They absorbed the lessons and mutated slightly, without diluting their own essence but weren't leaving anything to chance. Ireland can do the same. We're not getting fooled again.