Friday 23 March 2018

We have 800 minutes to build for world cup

In a society where bluff and bluster informs our politics, at least Declan Kidney didn't succumb to spin on Saturday. No tripe about moral victories here.

Ireland are six losses from seven and they competed fitfully on Saturday. The Kiwis, despite rarely hitting fifth gear, cruised home to win by 20 points, illustrating the vast chasm between the world's best and the erstwhile champions of the north.

Making three times as many tackles as their opponents rendered Ireland a spent force in those vital moments before and half-time, when the Kiwi's 21-point blitzkrieg floored the home team.

Inhibited by vital mistakes at the set-piece and in the execution of the most basic skills, Ireland were unable to offer a realistic challenge to New Zealand.

They fell well short but, as one sifts through the detritus of so many fundamental flaws, Ireland must retain faith in the developmental path necessary to remain a world force.

Rugby has moved on since 2009. Ireland under Kidney know they need to move with the times.

It is a path they must commit to without quibble until their opening RWC bout with the USA on September 11. With 10 games to be played between now and then, every one must be approached with that tournament in mind.

The IRFU, who have placed a needless amount of extra pressure on their players and coaches by making a cock-up of their homecoming -- still no heads have rolled -- should withdraw any pressure to win the Six Nations.

The so-called 'bread and butter', and the poverty of imagination so often required to win a Six Nations championship, is not a sufficient diet upon which to base a World Cup challenge.

For such are the range of deficiencies in Ireland's play, they need every one of those 800 or so minutes to ensure that the next time they face a leading world power, their efforts aren't as handicapped as they were on Saturday.

Perhaps we are fighting against our culture, the appalling weather that prevails in this land, inhibiting the type of skills required to play expansive rugby. Our win-at-all-costs schools cup navel-gazing hardly helps either.

"I watched the game in Limerick last week," noted Graham Henry wryly, "and it was hardly conducive to catch and pass. We're lucky to play most of our rugby in the summer."

Yet, as much as Ireland aspire to expand their game, the team remain hamstrung by a recidivist failure to implement the most basic of skills, from faulty decision-making to poor handling skills, with poor set-pieces adding to the woes.

And for all Ireland's excellent continuity at times on Saturday, inaccuracy still mocks their efforts and their inability to clinically finish opportunities meant that they were always going to fall short.

The All Blacks are the world's best because they start from a base where their fundamentals are thoroughly sound.

David Kelly

Irish Independent

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