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Worst performance in history

This was the worst Irish performance in Ireland's World Cup history. It even surpassed Lens in its awfulness, lack of direction and poor execution.

Eight year's ago, Eddie Coleman of the IRFU said that it was unacceptable, and made a pointed reference about the future of Irish coach Warren Gatland. This time nobody in a blazer will raise their head above the parapet when the coach has a caste-iron four-year deal his pocket.

Ireland's target against one of the weakest teams in the tournament was about amassing the points that Argentina's victory had made crucial. Equally importantly, it would demonstrate whether Niall O'Donovan's suggestion that the squad had worked extra hard since Belfast to clear the cobwebs had merit or whether, like France, the extra work was counter-productive.

The competition flattered to deceive on Friday night. The results on Saturday demonstrated that the gap between the strong and the weak is getting wider. Japan who had restricted Australia to a 19 point margin in 1987, now saw that gap widen fivefold.

But much more striking was the All Blacks destruction of Italy, the fourth best team in Europe. The team that had reduced Ireland to near impotence in Ravenhill had no answer to the awesome power of the favourites. It clearly demonstrated the mountain to be climbed by the aspirants for ultimate victory in France.

Within 15 minutes, the Irish support that had opened in carnival fashion were struck dumb as they watched an Irish team that, even by the standards of Ravenhill, were dreadful. At least Italy were legitimate opponents. Namibia, on the other hand, were cannon fodder who should have been dispatched by a hundred points.

After 40 minutes, O'Sullivan stood indicted for a frantic game plan, without shape or application of the basic skills of the game. Ireland never tried to subdue their opponents before attempting the search for points. The Spanish bullfighter knows full well that the head of the animal must drop if he is to deliver the coup de grace.

The injury to Shane Horgan is now looming large as Andrew Trimble does not look like an international footballer and Denis Hickie seems to be comfortably contemplating retirement rather than put his body at risk. David Wallace was way off the pace and only able to play in one half of the field. He never followed the ball and hardly touched it in the open. He was blowing hard almost from the off, and it was no surprise that was replaced by Neil Best.

The Irish coach dismissed the role of the open side flanker before this tournament. Richie McCaw demonstrated what a legitimate player can do to ensure quick ball at the breakdown against Italy. O'Sullivan was and is hopelessly wrong in his approach to the number seven shirt. It may cost Ireland a place in the quarter finals, and should cost him his job.

After just 15 minutes, Ireland had abandoned a plan based on using the back line and resorted to trying to batter their way over, using the pack at scrum and lineout.

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This field is required

Ireland continually put forwards in the midfield, and all cohesion was lost. It reached its nadir when Neil Best came on as a substitute, caught a poor clearance and instead of trying to move the ball to support simply ran straight into a defender and fell on the ground.

Moments before, Ireland had turned over a Namibian ruck on the Irish line. Brian O'Driscoll and company had an open field and the prospect of 90-metre try beckoned. Instead, Peter Stringer unerringly picked out Leamy, and the chance was stillborn.

Ireland's PR team will spin furiously, but there is nowhere to hide. It is, as the foreign legion put it, march or die. This team must put up or shut up. Sadly, it is beyond them.


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