| 19.6°C Dublin

Alan Quinlan: 'Players have to shoulder blame for dismal performance'


Close

Dejected: Ireland’s Conor Murray slumps off the pitch following Saturday’s shock defeat to Japan at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, in Fukuroi, Shizuoka. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Dejected: Ireland’s Conor Murray slumps off the pitch following Saturday’s shock defeat to Japan at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, in Fukuroi, Shizuoka. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Dejected: Ireland’s Conor Murray slumps off the pitch following Saturday’s shock defeat to Japan at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, in Fukuroi, Shizuoka. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

I'm still wound up, it's a difficult one to process. I was in Kumagaya yesterday for Uruguay against Georgia but pre and post-game my mind was still trying to compute what happened 230km away in Shizuoka.

The World Cup is the pinnacle and Ireland just weren't good enough.

Saturday's loss threw up so many questions: What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? Who was to blame? Where do they go from here?

Ireland's tactical naivety cost them. They needed to control the game in the second half having spent so much time on the back foot in energy-sapping conditions. They needed to kick the ball a lot more.

Close

Ireland's flanker Peter O'Mahony (centre,L) and Ireland's scrum-half Conor Murray walk off the pitch applauded by Japan players after the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland's flanker Peter O'Mahony (centre,L) and Ireland's scrum-half Conor Murray walk off the pitch applauded by Japan players after the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland's flanker Peter O'Mahony (centre,L) and Ireland's scrum-half Conor Murray walk off the pitch applauded by Japan players after the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

For me, the blame lies with the players. There was a lack of leadership when Ireland were on the ropes. There was complacency in the performance, a sense that they were expecting things to happen.

From a management perspective there is not a whole lot I would have done differently. The team selection was strong; bringing in 170 caps of experience into the back-three with two first-choice players said as much. There was plenty of respect shown for the hosts. Saying otherwise is simply untrue.

Dipped

Had I been calling the shots I probably would have introduced Joey Carbery earlier, that's about the only thing I would have done differently.

Carbery might be Jack Carty's junior by four years but he knows the dimensions of this global stage that bit better than the Connacht fly-half, whose performance dipped after a promising opening quarter.

Carbery kicking the ball out at the end showed his composure, it was absolutely the right thing to do. Ireland were hanging on and that losing bonus point could be vital yet.

Rugby Newsletter

Subscribe to 'The Collision' for a weekly update from Rugby Correspondent Ruaidhri O'Connor and the best writing from our expert team Issued every Friday morning

This field is required

Johnny Sexton's presence on the field would have helped in such trying times. The same was obvious after the demoralising defeat in Twickenham last month.

His demanding nature gets that bit more out of the players around him and focuses the minds on the task at hand. He knows how to steer the ship through choppy waters better than anyone in the squad. Without him Ireland got seasick.

They looked dead on their feet. The shorter turnaround after the emotional high of the Scotland game appeared to be a factor even though it had been so well flagged.

Getting yourself right mentally for successive matches in a tournament scenario is a lot more difficult than people may realise. Finding that appropriate emotional pitch can be tricky.

The most disappointing aspect of the performance for me, again with the Scotland win so fresh in the memory, was the performance of the pack, particularly the back-row. Ireland lacked dynamism in a battle that seemed to be heavily weighted in their favour.

Close

Irish full-back Rob Kearney releases possession as he is tackled by Japan’s Pieter Labuschagne. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Irish full-back Rob Kearney releases possession as he is tackled by Japan’s Pieter Labuschagne. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Irish full-back Rob Kearney releases possession as he is tackled by Japan’s Pieter Labuschagne. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland were outplayed on the floor and on the gainline. And when they really needed the set-piece to hold firm the lineout wobbled and a crack appeared in a scrum that had previously looked as reliable as a Japanese train timetable.

After Japan hit the front in the second half Ireland built a promising passage of play. They were making inroads by picking and jamming with the Japanese defence fanning out wide. That was the way to beat the hosts, particularly when things weren't clicking in attack, but Ireland changed tack, coughed up possession and hardly got another sniff.

Japan deserve all the praise that is coming their way. It was a superb performance, one so far removed from their nervous opening outing against Russia.

They held on to the ball brilliantly and demonstrated outstanding skills, accuracy and fitness. Their attitude was on point; you could see how well prepared they were for Ireland.

They got things right tactically, running the ball back rather than getting into a kicking duel they knew they would likely lose. And when they saw Irish players gasping for air they ran the ball again and again.

Japan's approach was summed up by the play preceding the game's final score. They had a scrum in their own '22', an ideal platform to kick to touch and drain some life out of the clock. But they stuck to their guns and ran the ball again, eventually engineering a penalty for Yu Tamura.

The composure of Jamie Joseph's side was the element that impressed me the most.

Four years ago against South Africa they were chasing the game for the majority of the contest only to hit the front in the 84th minute.

Momentous

On this occasion they had plenty of time to ponder a momentous success. They had it in their grasp and never let it slip. There is clearly a deep belief among this group that they can do something special at this tournament.

For them, though, the challenges will now come thick and fast. It will be interesting to see how they deal with a heightened level of expectation. The twists in Pool A may not be done yet.

It's desperately deflating after the highs of the Scotland performance. Ireland, even playing below-par, should have had more than enough to beat an on-song Japan.

There was probably too much talk of playing South Africa in the quarter-final after Ireland's opening victory. I hold up hands as I was guilty of it myself. But we have to remember too that Joe Schmidt was wary of Japan in the build-up. He certainly wasn't the one building up a showdown with the Boks.

The Ireland coach talked about Japan being "dangerous if they get some tempo" and insisted "we won't be talking too much about South Africa". That was pundits, fans and journalists. Plenty of us got ahead of ourselves, foolishly.

The quarter-final talk has to stop now. The narrative around the Russia and Samoa games has changed but some of the requirements remain the same; some first-choice forwards need to be rested this week and Sexton needs time on the field.

The team selection against Samoa will probably have to be stronger than some would have hoped but that is the situation the team have brought upon themselves.

Irish confidence is rattled and World Cup hopes are dented but at least they have an opportunity to put things right.

Please register or log in with Independent.ie for free access to this article

Already have an account?


Most Watched





Privacy