An Irish nightmare in Paris
When was the last time we won in Paris? Easy, 200o. When was the last time we went to Paris thinking ‘it’ll be different this time, we know how to win in France and we’re not afraid’? Every year since. Brian O’Driscoll’s game winning hat-trick only served to wake the beast; France would never treat us lightly again.
Sure, they’ll take their foot off the pedal, but only once we’re a distant speck in their rear-view-mirror. Just as it happened in 2006, 2008 and 2010: we allow France to clock up a big first half lead as the trumpets wail.
Only then, when the shackles of expectation are slipped off, do Ireland suddenly click into plucky underdog mode and fight back to within a whisker of the win… it’s the hope that kills you. We always come up short in the end.
There is no BOD
After 10 minutes had elapsed against Australia in Auckland, the worl Cup’s second favourites were embarking on a counter attack. Australia seemed to have two men over as they moved out of their own 22, one of them was Digby Ioane.
Brian O’Driscoll raced to cover. As he did so his right arm was wildly gesticulating, pointing and ordering Tommy Bowe to cover Ioane and no-one else. Practically tackling on one arm, BOD closed off all the other angles, Australia were taken down on the 10 metre line and Ireland were soon awarded a kick-able penalty.
It’s just the tiniest example of what O’Driscoll brings to a side. That miniscule moment might just have made the difference between a pretty good World Cup and a bad one. O’Driscoll is even more than that, though. Ronan O’Gara (honest as ever) last week spoke of the obvious gaping hole in leadership left in the camp.
The chasm, ROG reported, ultimately meant training wasn’t as sharp as it could have been. Someone needed to step into that gap and O’Gara no doubt did just that at his very next opportunity. But in the heat of battle will Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Tommy Bowe or Rob Kearney step forth to assume the mantle, or will they just wonder where it’s all going wrong?
No change to game plan
It’s all well and good talking about a new plan, but 80 minutes are worth millions of words. If moving into a more dynamic, penetrative attacking plan was so easy then we could have done it by now. Was Brian O’Driscoll holding us back? Hardly.
I’ve no doubt that the 15 players who start will go out with the full intention of confidently running the ball, off-loading and giving quick ball. It won’t work 100% of the time, however.
There’ll be a knock-on here; we’ll end up isolated there. When that happens will we continue to believe? Or revert to an unimaginative crash ball, kick the corners and rely on a rusty set of line-out calls.
Ronan O’Gara replaces Jonathan Sexton against Scotland in March 2010. Dan Sheridan, INPHO.
No continuity at half back
There is great competition for places at half back, but as a consequence none of the four options is allowed the confidence of being first choice. Kidney has his hands on the rug and whoever makes the error has it pulled from under them.
If things aren’t going well on Sunday we are likely to have a situation where Eoin Reddan and O’Gara replace Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton. It could be the same story if we are winning comfortably. Neither pairing is getting a chance to really click together.
Ten years ago the line-out was the most important set-piece in the game, now it is the scrum again. If (God forbid) any injury befalls Cian Healy or Mike Ross, then any of our five European counterparts could take us apart.
Come back before the big kick-off tomorrow for reasons Ireland can and will win the Six Nations