Chronic issues haunt Ireland
A SAD day for Irish rugby – Ireland gifted an awful Scottish team a victory at Murrayfield they hardly deserved, outside of a slightly more functional set-piece and recognised place-kicker.
There are a myriad reasons why Ireland did not win the game yesterday. It would be too easy to focus purely on certain personnel in crucial positions, as that would brush over chronic problems that I believe Ireland have struggled with.
The persistent ineptness of our continuity in attack overshadows any specifics that may have cost us victory yesterday.
The overuse of Sean O'Brien as a battering ram underpinned our limited approach to gain any forward momentum. So often he was the lone ranger and although he was relentless throughout, he charged haplessly into Scottish jerseys.
He was not the only one. Time and time again, armed with so much possession, we somehow refused to attack the channels of least resistance, especially at those crucial stages when we managed to produce quick ball.
Many of our one-off runners were often swallowed up again and again by any number of blue shirts.
Save for some Scottish indiscipline and poor defence it would have been difficult to see how we were going to cross the whitewash, bar moments of individual skill allied with the quick feet of some of the back division.
When you look back on the tries we've scored over the years, I would argue that many of them have either been created by some individual brilliance or have come about directly from a solid set-piece.
The lack of quality with the latter yesterday meant we relied solely on the line breaks of Keith Earls and Luke Marshall, which sadly lacked the end product.
That inability to turn possession into points ultimately gave the home side an increasing level of belief they needed to take their opportunities in the second period and scrape a win that looked so unlikely at the outset.
With so much possession and so many opportunities, it's clear now that we are not using our resources in the correct manner on a consistent basis.
I acknowledge that we were short on experience, but if a team wholeheartedly believes in what it's trying to accomplish, from an attacking perspective, I would argue that we would have created more successful chances against what was, in truth, very poor opposition.
By adhering to a limited route one game, that so often manifests itself in slow rucks around the fringes, denying space to the backs on the outside, the Irish team will continue to let down a nation which is not producing enough powerful individuals with the physique required to compete with any of the bigger international sides.
The apparent lack of a template to maximise the use of space off front-foot ball will make it difficult for us unless new ideas are fostered.
To watch us implode like we did, unfortunately, spoke volumes about where this squad is at.
From my experience, when players start making such unforced errors on the pitch, usually some sort of direction and planning is either lacking, not trusted or, at best, unclear.
For Declan Kidney, he may now have to face the inevitable.
It's the nature of the job and Kidney has, no doubt, given it his all.
Unfortunately, the Paddy Jackson gamble did not pay off for him. It would be very narrow-minded to single Jackson out for blame in the aftermath – he is young and has much to learn.
But at this level, putting the Scotland game in context, he was found wanting in terms of his place-kicking, but everyone knew that was a possibility , including, possibly, the player himself.
The wolves may be at the door come the end of the championship, but Kidney now has the unenviable task of either sticking with Jackson for the French match or using another option, which will be a difficult predicament and, in many ways, is a no-win situation as far as he is concerned.
Many of the players that Kidney has coached did not show themselves in a good light yesterday – he probably deserved more from them, but maybe they needed more from him.
Whatever transpires for this Ireland squad over the coming years, it will take a long time to get out of the shadow of players that have hung up their boots, or are just about to.
There will be lot to live up to for the next batch of young players who are definitely better than they have shown this year. They are ready and willing to take on the mantle and kick on, I'm sure.
The game is moving on fast and we always seem to be one step behind.
The coach will always be the sacrificial lamb in these situations, but wise heads must prevail with bigger decisions coming down the line.