Monday 19 February 2018

Billy Keane: Time to show All Blacks we're no minions – and they're no master race

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The exhausted All Blacks wouldn't be able to burst bubble wrap afterwards, such was the savage intensity of the training session. Rugby is constantly evolving new methods of physical preparation. Nutrition, too, plays a key role. Strength and conditioning coaches are always on the lookout for an edge.

The All Blacks started the session at a frightening pace. The players had that don't-you-even-think-about-peeing-in-my-cornflakes look that they put on when they're at the Haka.

"They'll never stick this pace. This is insanity," said Big Willie Ahern, the barman in The Palace. "Three pints and two whiskeys and that's just the warm-up."

From The Palace the supermen hit for Doheny and Nesbitt's where they drank another gallon. The session was finished off in a heaving, mauling night club with champagne sprints, drinking games while bench pressing models, Jägerbomb reps and a cool down of Babycham spritzers.

Drink, it seems, did the Aussies no harm at all when they walloped us last Saturday night. They went out on the town earlier in the week and played like world champions. Those of us who were dropped for taking a few drinks in the build-up to matches were right all along.

Alas, the All Blacks drank nothing stronger than a kiwi fruit smoothie.

We were beaten sick by the partying Aussies. Have we any chance at all then against a sober team?

The All Blacks are not only the best rugby team in the world right now, they are also the world's greatest rugby nation, going back over a 100 years or more.

This team is special. The world champions are heading for their 14th win in a row to complete a perfect season. Ireland have never beaten them. Well, sort of never beaten them. Munster did crush them in 1978, a mere 35 years ago, so there is a template and if you want to annoy a Kiwi, just subtly mention it was the only day ever they failed to score. Munster died for each other that day.

Last week our work rate was poor. Some Irish players sauntered around the pitch as if they were on their way to a party that started at eightish. There was no fire and no do-or-die. Losing is bad enough, but to lose without honour is unpardonable.

Yet we were not as bad as we have been portrayed. We played some really good rugby coming up to half- time. We had the Aussies figured and they were unable to stop the inside passes to Sean O'Brien. The rolling maul was revving up. Then Jonathan Sexton went off and we had no new defensive plan. There was no control or bossing. We backed off in defence and neither did we attack the rucks. Our line speed was slower than an electric car on the front grid of a Grand Prix. Forwards were playing scrum- half and out-half. Players didn't work for each other. It was as if they had never met before. It was as if they didn't realise there were 100,000 Irish emigrants watching the game on TV over in Oz. It was as if this was a video game and the Aussies owned the joy stick.

We are all born of flesh and blood. Yet we are going in to play the All Blacks as if they are gods. Are we the same people who have overcome civil wars, or are we some inferior race scraping the burnt leftovers from the bottom of someone else's pot?

You need rugby brains too. How is it that we still kick away the ball? Try this mantra on the white board, Joe. CARELESS KICKS COST TRIES. Especially against the All Blacks. There was no kick-chase against Australia. You'd get more scrambling when it's time to switch partners at line dancing. Peter O'Mahony was upended by a dirty tackle and his team-mates looked on like as if it was a scene from a movie they were watching.


The players couldn't very well puck the Aussies, but they should have fronted up to get the crowd going.

Showbiz comes into it too. There is a growing sense of disconnect between players and supporters. There are times when the so-called fans are no more than day-trippers with their mouths full of hot dogs and half the match is spent drinking, peeing, pruning, twittering and texting. It's sad when the stadium DJ has to play 'The Fields of Athenry' to get the sing-song going.

Yes we do have a chance. These All Blacks are wonderful ambassadors for their country and for the game, but they are not as good as they think they are. More importantly they are not as good as we think they are. France ran them close and we're close to France. If England hadn't run out of steam, they could have won. We must believe. The Irish were never reared to be slaves to a losing tradition or minions of a rugby master race.

The All Blacks have this practised stare they give you after the last step of the Haka is danced. Their faces say: "We, the all-conquering All Blacks, are going to strip you, the Irish, of every last bit of your manhood and dignity'.

We lost our kids to emigration. We lost our jobs. We lost our pensions, our homes and our businesses. We lost our confidence and our sovereignty.

All we have left is our pride.

Irish Independent

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