Sunday 18 March 2018

Fiona Coghlan: Tierney has to shoulder blame - but so too must the players

Dejected Ireland players shake hands with their Australian counterparts after yesterday’s game in Belfast. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Dejected Ireland players shake hands with their Australian counterparts after yesterday’s game in Belfast. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Fiona Coghlan

Tom Tierney is going to take the brunt of blame because he is Ireland's head coach and, when you take on that role, these are the questions you have to shoulder. Yet I don't believe it is ever just one person's fault when things go wrong.

If a scrum goes badly, it's not just the prop's fault. If a lineout goes wrong, it's not just the hooker's fault. The players, 100 per cent, also have to take responsibility for that performance yesterday.

Some of the statistics were very telling and shocking, including another 24 missed tackles. Australia carried for 650 metres and made 121 carries over the gain-line compared to Ireland's 36.

The coach said afterwards that Ireland's plan to stop Australia's powerful runners was to chop tackle. That didn't happen so obviously the players didn't carry out that strategy.

But I keep coming back to why is there such a systematic failure?

Things we've seen throughout this tournament still weren't fixed, especially the slow line-speed. Losing Claire Molloy and Jenny Murphy did not help but Ireland were beaten in so many collisions yesterday.


The reality is that the scoreline flattered us because of those two late tries.

I feel like a broken record but we just let Australia run at us. That's been the trend throughout this tournament and the players have to take responsibility for that.

We did look to create something different yesterday but again it was done too deep or not executed right.

Is that a problem of execution or strategy? I don't believe you execute these things unless you're in these positions at training.

If your strategy isn't right you're also not going to execute things at the right time so you do have to question our strategy.

I still couldn't see a clear Irish game-plan. In contrast, the Australians, who only played five XV internationals in the past three years, had a very clear game-plan and have shown improvement with every game. Yes, there was more of the Irish kick-chase yesterday and we got a bit of yardage off it in the first half.

There were also fewer enforced errors but we didn't have the ball.

Not being inside the camp it's hard to say it's all the management's fault but we have seen many of these players perform and front up before, so what is the missing link?

Is it the dynamic between themselves and the new players? Is there a lack of intensity in training, because when pressure comes on, they simply don't know what to do. They're not all on the same page, compared to Australia, despite their limited time together.

Skill level sometimes comes down to how you're prepared.

You can't say Paula Fitzpatrick or Nora Stapleton or Ali Miller aren't hugely skilful players. They are! We're just not seeing what they're capable of and have to ask why.

As it stands, Ireland have to battle now for an automatic qualifying spot for the next World Cup and even a win mightn't secure it. It was 'top seven' to automatically qualify for this tournament but it was 'top four' previously and World Rugby could yet decide to review and change it again.

Regardless, Ireland have just got to produce a performance in our final game, especially as it's going to be the last time some of these players wear the Irish jersey.

There will inevitably be a review. Is it the (lack of) numbers playing in the country, the standard they're playing at or the coaching? There's lots of player development issues below the national team that aren't Tom Tierney's fault, like the club and underage structures.

These are improving but are they where they need to be to reach the same heights now in a game that is developing so rapidly elsewhere?

Irish Independent

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