One eye on the RWC

28/03/2019

By Frank Quinn

We have had our ups and downs without real success in the RWC since 1987.

“Our 6n form historically had nothing to do with it” in the eight editions since then. It was hugely disappointing to be well beaten by England and Wales and to end up third in the 2019 6N competition based on very poor performances.

We are not used to this and we don’t want to get used to it, we want to run a mile from it. However it is a fact and we have to move on but not before laying the blame at the feet of the players.

The same players who beat New Zealand in November under the same coaching regime, but who flopped to a man in the 6N over the five games. The coach is not going to tell them to give away six kickable penalties against Wales; he is not going to tell Sexton not to go for the posts at 10/0 down.

He did not tell Stockdale to be taken down while in full flight for the line, from behind by a centre. He did not tell them not to score for 80 minutes. The players must shoulder the blame and accept it. Last year they accepted all the plaudits for winning the Grand slam.

We can have a difference of opinion on the coach’s team squad selection and definitely differ on the use of the replacements as Kearney, Murray and Sexton were on the pitch until the 65/71/73 minute respectively in very pivotal positions as the score soared to 25/0.

The other replacements were made in the fifty minute time zone Does this effect/ reflect on our effort to do well at the RWC in September 2019 - the answer is no - based on our history in the last eight RWC’s since 1987. )

I might as well acknowledge it now - Scotland (same pool), and our potential quarter final opponents New Zealand and South Africa will give us some respect but that’s about it based on the premier Northern Hemisphere competition results and our third place finish.

Our next serious test match engagement is in Pool A of the RWC at Yokohama Japan on the 22nd of September 2019 at 8.45 AM against Scotland. (Exactly Six months away)

This is the ninth RWC, in Japan this time, we have had our ups and downs in the RWC since 1987 and we have never got anywhere- quarters yes but to the semi finals not yet-…

We have under performed in eight editions, we even missed the quarter finals in two editions and we had to do a degrading qualifier for the following competition.

As you can see - “The six nation’s results did not count for us in the RWC finals in the past”. But that does not stop us from believing that this edition is the saviour of our RWC ambitions in 2019, this is the breakthrough year where we put all the tribulations behind us.

Joe Schmidt walks away with his head held high into the sunset with a medal of any colour. We have the same coaches in situ until after the RWC - so we run with them in the hope that they will produce a team, where the individuals are mad keen to play, to win - for themselves - their families - for Ireland.

A team which should resemble the dynamic enthusiastic effort (and reproduce it) made by Ireland to defeat the All Blacks in November 2018. The one piece of negative information I can give you is that in 2006 we beat the South Africans 32-16 in Lansdowne Road comfortably.

Then the South Africans went on to won the 2007 RWC in France under Jake White. We were a failure and did not figure in the quarter finals in that edition. Our goal is not just to qualify for the quarter finals and then put our feet up (we have been accused of this); it is to fully contest a semi final and then make it through to the Final.

There is no point in quoting our meaningless current world rugby ranking to me, but fans still do unfortunately - . The only gold plated world ranking 1-8, is at the end of a RWC finals tournament The RWC has belonged to the Southern Hemisphere and England since 1987.

New Zealand 3 wins, Australia 2 wins, South Africa 2 wins and England 1 win in 2003. I need to acknowledge the huge French contribution - beaten in three finals Ireland qualified for six quarter finals out of eight editions. Back to mundane March in 2019, third in the 6N - and where do we go from here, Joe Schmidt has all his planning in position having spent a week in Japan scouting hotels, training facilities and all the detail work needed for a touring party of 31 players with all the relevant backup.

The Guinness summer series of games are planned and scheduled as warmer uppers and just maybe a few places for player positions will still be up for grabs to fill the 31 man squad and a standby list of 5/6. If you fancy your chances take a touring holiday to New Zealand from the 22nd of September, injuries do happen! - bring your boots.

Even in mundane March - the rugby world progresses with European Cups and Guinness PRO14 competitions still at vital stages for us. The fifty players or so commandeered by Joe Schmidt for the 6N competition in January will be returning to their respective club squads.

They all left as winners having qualified for the European cups qualifiers and mostly very well placed in the GuinnessPRO14 to proceed to the knockout stages. What state are they in now following “Super Saturday” at Cardiff? Only time will tell.

The four provincial head coaches have the headache of picking them up and integrating them back into the club procedures and game plans. It cannot be easy and must not be under rated as they have existing players (non Irish squad) who played all the games in February and March and who must now accommodate the international squad players.

You can say it is great to have this situation with strength in depth squad but man management skills will be extended to the limit especially at Leinster.

Club Team squad selections are very individual to the players concerned, it may be a team sport but they are still very much individuals - (for themselves and their families) and all professional athletes look at it in this light.

The Heineken Cup quarter finals are scheduled for 29-31 March: Leinster V Ulster and Edinburgh V. Munster. Challenge Cup: Sale V Connacht