David Wallace: Munster can lift Irish spirits if they trust in system
Foley's men can extend perfect record provided they defend a bit smarter
Published 23/10/2015 | 02:30
That was a massive come-down last weekend; the World Cup semi-finals will take place without Ireland. Everyone expected to cheer the team for at least one more game but it's over for another four years.
Luckily the Pro12 is in full swing and Munster have given us something to shout about.
Their fourth win from four put them on top of the Pro12, but they didn't have it all their own way against Cardiff.
There wasn't an issue with the level of intensity in the hit or the one-on-one tackling. But in terms of defensive systems, there were guys who didn't get the spacings, nominating and communicating right.
Guys need to buy into the system and trust it more: when everyone sings from the same hymnsheet Munster will be the complete package. But they need to work on their defensive patterns.
Defence certainly wins games, and there is no problem with the intensity and the commitment, but Munster could be smarter and a bit more comfortable with the system.
Against Scarlets tonight, the breakdown will be the key area that Munster need to get right. James Davies and John Barclay need to be marshalled so they cannot disrupt the Munster ball.
DTH Van der Merwe is dangerous too, but hopefully Munster can put the shackles on him. Scarlets have beaten Ulster and Leinster over there already, and it would be great if Munster bucked the trend.
From an Ireland point of view, it was never going to be easy, and when Tommy Bowe was stretchered off that was six front-liners that were missing. That takes its toll, especially when you couple that with the events from the week before.
On top of that, Argentina are arguably the most improved team in this World Cup, and since they nearly beat New Zealand in the first game, they have been a breath of fresh air.
It was very hard to watch, that opening 25 minutes - I haven't seen Ireland being out-played like that, in many, many years. Argentina were first to everything, better in the air, on the ground, in the breakdown, and in the contact area. They dominated every facet until Ireland finally got a bit of reprieve.
It looked like Ireland might come back into the game, but I felt the only hope was that Argentina would transgress at the breakdown.
More than anything, I hoped they would fatigue in the final quarter. But that wasn't the case and they finished stronger.
Argentina were a completely different proposition. They were leading New Zealand at half-time, and were just three points behind late on in that game as well. They then got the chance to rest some players and coasted through the pool after that.
It was really evident how up for this game they were. And as with the last World Cup, Ireland might have played their quarter-final a week too soon. A lot of players found it very difficult to get up to those heights again a week later.
But it would be foolish to think that was the only reason that Ireland couldn't pull through to their first semi-final.
Argentina had this on their radar for nearly a month. They knew it was either Ireland or France and it was a great chance for them to make the final four.
Australia certainly won't be resting easily ahead of their semi-final against the Pumas. They just about got past Scotland - with the aid of some dreadful refereeing decisions.
They will not have it as easy as they might have in recent years against Argentina, especially if the Pumas can raise it emotionally and physically again. Skill-wise they just didn't make mistakes against Ireland, and it seemed like a top-tier nation against a second-tier team.
It's scary when you think Argentina have been the weakest side in the Rugby Championship since they joined it. Meanwhile Ireland are back-to-back Six Nations winners; that certainly doesn't bode well for the rugby in the north.
The semi-finals, are a straight shootout now between the Rugby Championship sides, and I see it being a New Zealand versus Argentina final.