Tuesday 27 September 2016

This season is over for Irish rugby - so let's look to the future

Michael McCarthy

Published 24/02/2016 | 02:30

The World Cup was to be the platform on which Joe Schmidt was to assert himself as the saviour of Irish rugby. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
The World Cup was to be the platform on which Joe Schmidt was to assert himself as the saviour of Irish rugby. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

It hasn't been the greatest season for Irish rugby.

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No teams left in the Champions Cup, winless after two games in the Six Nations, and injury after injury after injury depleting our playing stock.

The World Cup was to be the platform on which Joe Schmidt (right) was to assert himself as the saviour of Irish rugby. We were going in there as consecutive Six Nations champions. This was our best hope yet.

But we were humbled. The European game had fallen massively behind, and we were its leaders. Rugby had changed. It wasn't about up and unders anymore, but about running rugby and keeping the ball alive. As the standard bearers for the unsightly European style, we've the farthest to come back.

In the club game, the overarching fear that restructuring would hurt us has proved worse than we were prepared for. The financial power of England and France means the culture of success ingrained in the Irish provinces has been decimated. We are now fighting for scraps.

Add to all this an horrific injury crisis. We have a small playing base. As the game becomes more attritional, this becomes a problem for the provinces and for Ireland. Is there the depth of talent needed? Like the NFL, success in rugby is becoming more about who can handle an injury crisis the best rather than who has the most talent.

So, what's the point of all this?

Well, this season is over. Let's use it to prepare for 2019 and make sure we're not behind the curve again. Aren't there players out there worth blooding? Aren't there new systems worth exploring? New styles of play? Let's be innovative instead of spending three years trying to copy New Zealand, only to discover they have reinvented the game again.

Nobody is going to remember this season in four years' time. That's what really counts.

Irish Independent

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