Sunday 22 April 2018

Players just not in sync with Kidney's fanciful goal

David Kelly

David Kelly

It is in Declan Kidney's warmly familiar nature to turn frowns upside down but is there a point when fatuous optimism replaces robust realism? And are his players really tuned in to his thinking?

Quite aside from his remarkable affirmation that Ireland are not lacking confidence -- despite Ronan O'Gara's stout contradiction and the coach's own reflections on Ireland's nervousness on Saturday -- his comments on Ireland's purported game plan are become terrifically tired and repetitive.

"We're having a go at it and if you don't try things you won't learn," he said on Saturday. "I'd prefer us to be trying things and making a few mistakes than not trying stuff."

Relating such an assessment to what his out-half described as a "dour, boring match" seems to insult to the intelligence of supporters who turned up on Saturday.

Heaven forfend, Scotland attempted more off-loads in their pitiful display against the All Blacks!

Samoa scored a scintillating try from the first phase off one of the surfeit of line-outs which peppered this dismal Test match; Ireland didn't try one planned move from their set-piece.

Ireland's most lethal back-line scoring threat, Tommy Bowe, didn't touch the ball until the 49th minute, and even then that was on the shoulder of the out-half as he desperately came infield looking for work.

So how does Ireland's pitiful creative effort back up Kidney's explanation that Ireland were "trying things"?

The players would seem to disagree. Jamie Heaslip pointed out that Ireland's game plan is "the game we want to play", which wasn't very helpful. He, like others, blamed the conditions. The best rugby teams can master any conditions; this writer recalls the All Blacks demolition of the Lions in 2005 as the best performance by a team in inclement weather. And boy did that team try things.

Luke Fitzgerald was a little less tactful in addressing the coach's continual mantra that Ireland are "trying things".

"You can't play fancy rugby in those conditions, you just can't do it," Fitzgerald insisted, as if the match had been played in a hurricane. "You can play a running game at times but you have to really clever about it."

However, on the evidence of the past fortnight, Ireland seem ill-equipped to play the type of running rugby Fitzgerald speaks of, seem unprepared to "try the things" that Kidney fancifully hopes for.

Never mind that a team needs to be going forward to create space behind.

Without a functioning set-piece -- one week the line-out is in tatters, the next week it's the scrum -- not even the best teams can possibly indulge in any attempt to deploy an attacking process.

The problem is that there does not seem to be an attacking process. Ireland were content to strangle Samoa. That will not wash against New Zealand.

Ireland's ambition is laudable. Sadly, their application remains questionable.

David Kelly

Irish Independent

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