Saturday 18 November 2017

Reddan rubbishes claims provincial success a problem

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

EOIN REDDAN shakes his head at the notion, but there is a growing sense that Ireland's provinces' strength has come at the expense of the national team.

It is the old chestnut that will not go away unless Ireland beat the Springboks on Saturday. If they don't, then that old debate about this country's inability to tap into its European club success will raise its head once again.

Between them, Leinster and Munster have won five of the last seven Heineken Cups, while Ulster's revival saw them reach the final last season. At Pro12 level, the Irish are consistently competitive. All is rosy in the garden.

In the international sphere, however, things don't look as well. Declan Kidney's side have won just two of their eight matches since the 2011 World Cup and go into this month's Tests needing results to stay in the world's top eight ahead of the 2015 pool draws.

The debate is further complicated by the case of Wales, whose regions are generally dire in Europe, but whose national side reached the World Cup semi-final with victory over the Irish and have won three Grand Slams since 2005.

Despite the comparison, scrum-half Reddan believes that maintaining provincial success is the way forward if Ireland want to succeed at international level.

"The first thing to realise, is that the provinces doing well is good for the national team," he insisted.

"Last year everyone was going on about Wales and their provinces being rubbish, and then Ospreys go and win the Pro12 five weeks later.

"You need to keep putting Ireland in the best position possible to win. If you get the situation where -- and I don't know how this has gotten out there -- people think that the provinces doing badly might be good for Ireland, you'll quickly have a situation where Ireland lose a few games and you have nothing.

"So that argument doesn't work. You've got a strong foundation. And we haven't quite achieved what we have at the top yet, but we have the foundation.

"When we don't win, you (the press) are all looking around going 'who have we got?'. You've got guys to talk about in the provinces. You can say 'maybe this guy' or 'maybe this guy'. And that's a good thing.

"That way we can move forward. We mightn't be moving forward as quickly as people would like but it still puts you in a position where you can move forward.

"If you don't have strong provinces, and one or two things go wrong for Ireland, you have nothing. They totally work together.

"Somehow, there's kind of been... I don't know where it's come from... but they've been pitched against each other.

"From a player's point of view, playing for Ireland is the pinnacle. But you have a massive pride in playing for your club. The coaches here are watching closely. It doesn't matter if it's the last minute and you're 50 points down, they're still watching what you're doing.

"That's the reality. I think the provinces are very, very strong -- and that's good for Ireland."

Beating the Boks would not only keep that debate on the long finger, but would keep the world rankings ticking over ahead of next month's 2015 World Cup draw.

That may be the tangible reward, but the priority this month, Reddan admitted, is for Ireland to restore some pride after losing 60-0 to New Zealand in their last game last June.

"In reality, the reason to win it on paper is the World Cup rankings," he said. "For the country, the fans, the players themselves, the coaching staff, it would be a huge opportunity to put that behind us.

"Even if this was a Six Nations game and we won, I don't think we'd be putting New Zealand to bed. The fact that it's a southern hemisphere team brings it closer to home that if we do beat them it'll be a big step forward in the right direction."

Irish Independent

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