Saturday 22 October 2016

Off The Ball: Players must set the tone for inevitable World Cup inquest

Ger Gilroy

Published 21/10/2015 | 02:30

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt

How happy the rugby community were for the intervention of the IABA to steal the limelight and headlines for a day or two at least.

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There's always a sports administrator somewhere you can rely on to wander into a minefield whenever you have a crisis brewing. No matter, the rugby blood-letting is coming.

We are a great little country for inquests and blame-apportioning and grand plans and strategic reviews and Genesis reports, number one in the world at feeling sorry for ourselves and looking outside for reasons and meaning beyond the obvious.

Everyone from the players, the management, the IRFU, the Hemisphere, England AND France, the draw, Matt O'Connor, Jimmy Gopperth, Jerome Garces and not-yet-but-give-it-time the fans for singing 'The Fields' a night early, have copped some blame. There's probably a grain of truth in all the conversations being had, but how to distil the important ones from the crazy ones?

It had appeared for a while like Joe Schmidt was the antidote to a lot of our problems, a one-man fixer of an entire culture. We heralded him as such. So now he's failed the script says he should be burned at the stake, slowly over the next 18 months like Eddie and Deccie before him. Let's try a new narrative.

Schmidt may still have the answer to a lot of the questions we have about ourselves in Irish sport. His own review of the management performance at this World Cup would be great to see. Presumably he's as hard on himself as he is on the team, but there's no doubt he has the experience and self-confidence to tune out the noise coming his way. The fact he'll have to replace Les Kiss offers him an opportunity to bring in another sounding board and a different point of view.

The culture around the inquest and the tone will be set by the current players and management. Some public blood-letting may occur. If it's honest, then no harm. Sometimes that's necessary. This group unfortunately now know they are same as every Irish World Cup team before them - it's up to them now to find out why.

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