THE INJURIES THAT dogged Ireland throughout the Six Nations continued into the Italy game where we lost three bloody important players.
Forwards playing in the backline and medical staff onand off the pitch every two minutes – it was incredible.
Most of the injuries incurred in the campaign where ones picked up from impact. No many players were pulling up or tweaking muscles. The fact remains, however, that we can’t use injuries as an excuse.
It’s a compliment to the bravery of the guys that remained on the pitch. They battled on and could have won the game but let it slip in the last 10 minutes.
It was the management and structure of their game that let them down. Bravery doesn’t win you championships.
Credit where credit is due
Ireland were really pressing when Sergio Parisse was in the sin-bin. They had the Italians going backwards near their tryline and deliberately slowed the ball down.
If the referee, Wayne Barnes, was being consistent, he should have yellow carded one of the Italians because a definite try-scoring chance was denied.
The sum total of everything we put together did not work.
The Italians had a better setpiece – lineout and scrum – they rucked better than us and were more creative. They thoroughly deserved their win.
Sean O’Brien consistently tried hard and Ian Madigan, when he came on, was superb. He attacked the Italian line and really offered Ireland something in attack.
The one positive to take from this championship is that we have blooded a lot of players.
Madigan showed a lot of promise, Craig Gilroy now has a championship under his belt, Iain Henderson looks a decent prospect and we’ll wait for Simon Zebo to come back. There is some real talent in the pool.
Lions selections and Kidney’s future
In terms of the Lions Tour, Brian O’Driscoll has come out of the Six Nations very well. His case for the captaincy has grown, especially after the Wales win over England [and captain Chris Robshaw] at the weekend.
Heaslip and O’Driscoll in a frank exchange of views. (Niall Carson/PA Wire)
Cian Healy, no doubt, will start and I’d imagine O’Brien will too.
Rob Kearney will travel but, after that, you wouldn’t be betting your house on any other Irish players.
Rory Best was the front-runner for hooker after the first two games but fell away. It is going to be very tough for Jamie Heaslip. The next few weeks will be a nervy time.
As for Declan Kidney, he has his meeting with the IRFU on Wednesday. There should be no panic or scandal but he should be told that his time is up.
I have said it before that Joe Schmidt should be the next coach but, failing that, the IRFU should but the position out there and see what CVs land. It is still a high profile job in world rugby.
After that, it is up to the IRFU whether they want a fesh start or will ask Kidney to go on further with the North America tour and give the new guy time to settle.