Rugby World Cup. Ireland needs to learn the lesson.

Northern hemisphere needs to cheer New Zealand Victory and hide its head between its legs.

Who predicted New Zealand’s defeat of Australia in the final of the Rugby World Cup?

Well, all right then. Everyone did.  Bookies weren’t even taking bets any more. I met a man today who told me he had €50 on New Zealand winning by six or more points and yet the Aussies kept us guessing almost to the end.  After scoring 14 points during an New Zealand sin-binning, they came within three points of equalising and some would argue that if they hadn’t fluffed an obvious try opportunity they might have nudged themselves into the lead. But in truth, as the ultimate victors took control of the game in its dying minutes and throttled the life out of the Australian challenge, everyone took to their feet to cheer the extraordinary style of the New Zealanders.

They were just better.

They were better in the planning, in the preparation and in the execution.

They were faster, stronger and more skilful than everyone else.

New Zealand left us Irish churning in our stew of hubris as we reflected on the misguided notion that we might ever challenge their supremacy in 2015. I suspect we might not feel confident to challenge them in 2019 or 2023 for that matter unless we conduct a fundamental re-think of how we play the international game of rugby, not only in Ireland but in the entire northern hemisphere.

How does it come about that the top-class leagues of England and France and the elite European Cup are unable to produce a single international squad capable of reaching the semi-finals of the rugby world cup?

We should be grateful to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina for reminding us that we are now in the second tier of world rugby. We should learn the lesson of Argentina who moved from the pedestrian European model to the expansive, creative, athletic southern hemisphere way of doing things and in the process, effortlessly brushed aside the Irish team, even if that team was admittedly robbed of talent and leadership by its bruising encounter with France the previous week.

It’s not enough. Excuses aren’t good enough.

We failed to beat Argentina because they were better than us and that’s all there is to it.

Ireland, France and Wales failed to progress because they simply couldn’t do it. Drawing a gentle veil across the England performance, only Scotland can have a genuine sense of grievance for referee Craig Joubert’s appalling decision to award Australia a penalty in the final minute of the game, but even then, reality has to intrude. If Scotland had really made it to the semi-final, they’d have been minced up and spat out by Argentina.

We can’t begrudge New Zealand their victory. Every one of them deserves credit, starting with the much-reviled Richie McCaw who has done nothing more than every self-respecting open-side ever did in the history of the game, operating on the fringes of legality, testing the referee’s abilities and leading his team with commitment and pride.

Who are we in Munster to judge? Our own Alan Quinlan fulfilled exactly the same role for years and we treated him as a hero with a nudge and a wink every time he bent the rules.

Let’s raise a glass to Richie, the best of the best, and another glass to Dan Carter, probably only equalled by Jonny Wilkinson in the out-half hall of fame. Let’s hail Ma’a Nonu, that mad heroic bastard and Sonny Bill, the gentle, religious, heavyweight boxing champion.

They’re legends, these guys, every one of them and we should point them out to our children, as our fathers pointed such heroes out to us.

But at the same time, we should be looking at them and asking, How can we be like them?

New Zealand has a population almost exactly the same size as Ireland’s, though it’s true we don’t have as many Maoris, which is undoubtedly a drawback. And it’s also true that, unlike New Zealand, we play many more sports, thereby reducing the pool of players, but still. It seems to be about more than numbers.

Judging by the New Zealand performance in this rugby world cup, it seems to be about attitude.

And let’s be honest, wouldn’t the world much prefer a Riverdance to a Haka?

15 thoughts on “Rugby World Cup. Ireland needs to learn the lesson.

  1. The leagues of England and France are not top class. The last English winner of the European Cup was in 2007. Toulon have won the last three, filled with non French players, 2 Australians from yesterday among their numbers, Giteau and Mitchell. Both leagues actually prevent the development of indigenous players because of foreign stars blocking their progress. England have more rugby players than the combined efforts of all the other nations, but like you say it’s about more than numbers.

    Ireland lost 5 front liners for the game v Argentina. I can’t think if a country that would win a WRC quarter final shorn of those vital players.

    But NZ were outstanding yesterday. A wonderful competition topped off with the finest display of speed, power and skill. NZ do nothing fancy, but do the basics brilliantly and at speed. It was a privilege to watch their display. Their humility in victory was telling as was that of Australia in defeat. Heroes all.

  2. Just as well we didn’t reach the final, then.

    It isn’t the losing that kills Paddy, it’s the winning.

    The All Blacks beat Munster at the Markets Field in 1905. Speaking of which, the Garryowen venue was pulsating for tonight’s promotion/relegation play off between Limerick FC and Finn Harps.

    Limerick, who returned to the ground for the first time in over 30 years this season, won 1-0.

    But given that our defence, an acute source of anxiety, has a tendency to slip into the occasional coma, it might not be enough for the second leg away on Friday.

    The old ground, which has been renovated since the furry bingo crowd (greyhound racing) left, was packed to the rafters this evening. At least 5,000 at the game.

    Even the dry old Limerick wit has returned

    “Come on ref, you’re giving us fucking everything”, an auld fella wryly shouted at the match official.

    Limerick FC have gone back to the future. An emotional evening at the scene of our greatest triumphs, even if the quality of the football didn’t rise to the occasion.

    Maybe the emotion got to the team. A 2-0 cushion would have been nice.

  3. It might be this simple.
    That for the general population of New Zealand it matters more, whether it’s the national team all the way down to the parish.

  4. Trevor Hogan made a few good points. General consensus was that the IRFU need to improve the quality of coaching outside the fee paying schools, who can afford the best coaches, which in turn will increase the quality of the playing pool.

  5. Just listened to that Bazza. 28 of the 32 in Leinsters academy from the fee paying schools, and it costs 18.5k a year to go to Clongowes? There will be a lot more pain down the road for Munster if they don’t start paying attention to the clubs again. The same clubs which got Munster, and indeed set the bar for Leinster , and Ireland since the advent of professionalism.

  6. Any of you oval ball types reckon that some of the pro rugby lads are taking Bob Martins?

    Most of them look like humans who have never walked this planet before.

    If compared to their counterparts in the not so distance past, the backs are as heavy as forwards and the forwards are three stone heavier than yesteryear’s big men.

    Are they hanging out with Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France mob– the rolling pharmacy meets the rolling maul?

  7. There’s no doubt that the average back today would probably have been an automatic choice for second row ten or fifteen years ago. The props, on the other hand just seem to have redistributed the bulk in a northerly direction.

  8. Big men, and it’s being monitored. If the words “nutritional supplements” are used call Henry Street.

    I don’t think it is endemic in rugby, though. There is an ethos of decency in the game disgracefully lacking from pro cycling, not that that stops the media giving the rolling pharmacy the oxygen of publicity.

    Was surprised to see, in the era of professionalism, a few throwing up and completely spent when the Irish rugby team trained with the Irish Elite boxing squad two years ago.

    Something comical watching a hooker following “hookers” around the makeshift ring, both barrels loaded, offloading at a spot which was vacated about half a second before the shot was thrown, or even conceived.

    Some of the rugby lads are built like Greek statues – but with fewer moves!

    But O’Connell would make a good cruiser, saw him at a few Lee fights, throwing more punches that the WBO champ.

  9. @Pauleire. All I can remember from school was “Jump Clements, Jump Clements. Jump. Jump. Jump!” :)

    I dunno, you would think in Limerick anyways that if a young lad is good enough, he would be in with a shot of the Munster academy. Is this the case?
    I wouldn’t be too clued in to the scouting system or how it works.

    But what of some other guy, no matter where in Ireland, whose parents can’t afford the school fees for top quality coaching access? Let’s say they’re playing with some random team in Wexford, or Tipperary, or Longford. Do they transfer to the nearest AIL club and take advantage of that environment? Do they get sent for trials with their province then to try and get a development contract?

  10. I meant to say, a young lad in Limerick, if he was good enough, it wouldn’t matter what school he was in? Or does it?

  11. It matters greatly what school he is in.
    There are A schools and B schools, you can guess which is which. Munster (the bastion of working class rugby) field a Schools XV and a Club XV both for 18/19 year olds. The Schools XV is picked exclusively from A schools. The AIL has many find players who didn’t go to A schools, they almost never get invited to the Munster Academy. Very many played for the Club XV.

  12. Ok, so if he wasn’t in an A school, and I can guess which ones they are in Limerick, his only other option is to get on the Munster Youths, which is taken from the clubs and deemed to be the “less good” provincial team?

    I believe Tom Tierney came through this route didn’t he? And some lad from Newport (in Tipp, not the Welsh team) as well, whose name escapes me.

    Even if a young lad was with a B school, can he not be put forward for trials for Munster Schools?

    Straight away, the pool is greatly reduced if it’s only coming from the A school?

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