Wednesday 22 November 2017

Total system failure riles backs coach

Gaffney vows to stick with game-plan despite communication breakdown

Ronan O'Gara, watched by scrum-half Peter Stringer, kicks downfield during yesterday's training session at the Aviva Stadium as the Irish squad gear up for their Autumn International match against Samoa on Saturday.
Ronan O'Gara, watched by scrum-half Peter Stringer, kicks downfield during yesterday's training session at the Aviva Stadium as the Irish squad gear up for their Autumn International match against Samoa on Saturday.
David Kelly

David Kelly

All credit to the Irish management. While thousands paid for tickets and didn't even bother to turn up for Saturday's dismal fare, those in charge were forced to spend the rest of their weekend watching incessant repeats of the video nasty.

For the coaches looking on, they clearly knew what was logically expected of their intelligent charges on a day of heavy rain against a behemoth pack.

Somehow, this was either miscommunicated to the players or the on-field leaders chose to ignore it. If they were unable to anticipate for themselves any such memos of modus operandi, then that is extremely worrying.

Alan Gaffney, whose back-line spectacularly misfired when operating at even the most rudimentary level, was still seething at the entire operation when he fronted up yesterday.

"We've done a detailed analysis on what happened on the weekend," he sighed. "We're not particularly happy with what occurred. Unfortunately it did occur and we're not running away from it.

"The performance wasn't what it should have been and there isn't one person who would have been happy with it. There's been a lot said about the fact that we could have kicked more ball.

"We had 12 line-outs in the game and every one of those was in the opposition half so we did something right to get into that position to play. But obviously we weren't as accurate as we should have been and therefore didn't reap the rewards.

"Our ball retention was poor, right across the pitch. I don't know if we got beyond three phases in any part of the game, whereas South Africa regularly got to 12 phases.

"It's something in our game that wasn't there on the day, irrespective of the way we were trying to play in either half of the pitch. We just couldn't keep the ball.

"I didn't mind us keeping the ball in hand but our execution and option-taking probably weren't what they should have been. The players will say themselves they should have been more direct and a lot more simple. We tried to be a little too cute.

"We tried to play plays that really didn't need to be played. What we should have been was simple and direct, taking the ball at them, attacking shoulders. We didn't do that. It's one of those things that happened. We need to reflect on it all and make sure it doesn't happen again.

"The backs turned balls over in the first half, only six in the entire game. You can't do that, even in the poor conditions. There's no excuse for that, they weren't forced by the weather, just bad choices."

Rory Best, bravely taking the flak for an appalling group effort in Ireland's line-out, for once hit the target by adding, "we didn't arrive at the ground for whatever reason".

Unfortunately, thousands of disenfranchised supporters had already agreed with him by kick-off.

Sadly, thousands more may follow suit as a tussle with Samoa -- especially based on last Saturday's tawdry evidence -- is hardly the most enticing of ways to flutter away what seems like a weekly wage on a visit to Lansdowne Road's newest library -- if one is indeed lucky enough to still have a weekly wage.

Tony Buckley's series is also at an end, although the growing number of supporters losing faith with the gargantuan Munster prop may query whether it had even started, such was his underwhelming contribution.

Geordan Murphy may be the only Irishman guaranteed to experience some decent rugby this week, as he has been allowed to remain in Leicester to tackle the Australians tonight.


With Rob Kearney unlikely to be risked against Samoa after damaging his knee and Gavin Duffy sidelined from training all week, Luke Fitzgerald would seem primed to slot in at full-back, where he may be able to give full expression to his restored talents.

Mike Ross could be installed as tight-head; many are his deficiencies but scrummaging is not one of them, albeit the Irish confirmed yesterday that all options are being discussed, including John Hayes.

Ireland won't be swayed from maintaining their commitment to expanding both their selection options and their game-plan in a November Series that may define the next 12 months for Irish rugby.

"We believe that we can compete with the best in the world," said Gaffney. "There's not much point being out there if we can't. But to go back into our shell and play a brand of rugby that doesn't entirely suit us isn't the way to go.

"You've just got to keep going down that path. We believe the way we want to play the game is the right way and I don't think we are going to step back from that at the moment.

"We are not going to go into our shells, we are going to keep going down this path. We've given it a lot of thought over a long period of time and we believe that's the best way we can do it."

His embattled team certainly hope so -- even if it may cost an arm and a leg to find out just how.

Irish Independent

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