Sunday 18 February 2018

George Hook: Ireland have been in free fall since the World Cup warm-up matches

Rory Best and his team-mates belt out ‘Ireland’s Call’
Rory Best and his team-mates belt out ‘Ireland’s Call’
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Ireland are currently taking on Italy at the Aviva Stadium in search of their first win of the 2016 Six Nations but George Hook isn't hopeful that Joe Schmidt's men will deliver a cohesive and exciting performance.

This has been Ireland's worst start to the championship in the Six Nations era, with the team managing just one draw from their opening three games and scoring just two tries.

Speaking on the ahead of today's game, Hook didn't hold back in his description of the team's creativity and their licence to try things under Joe Schmidt.

"This is the most restricted, regimented side with Ireland that I have ever seen, you guys at Off The Ball know this," Hook said to the host, Richie McCormack of Newstalk.

"With this coach you can't do anything [creative]. That's why they don't offload."

"This team has been in free fall since the World Cup warm-up matches," he later said.

He then elaborated on his dissatisfaction with the performance of head coach Joe Schmidt. Hook feels that while the Irish players followed the New Zealander's orders unquestionably during his first two years in charge, the recent winless run will have cast doubt in their minds.

"This is a very confused group of players and I'll tell you why," he said.

"When you are winning, if the coach tells you to play naked, you play naked. When they were winning, when Schmidt said to do something the players would say 'Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir'. But after three losses and a draw, the players are probably saying 'hold on a second'."

However, despite his misgivings about the direction the team is heading in, Hook still forecasted a comfortable Ireland win.

"It would be inconceivable if we were to lose this match," Hook said.

"Against Italy?!? It would be like Enda Kenny in the General Election, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."

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