Holland was a wonderful servant to Munster rugby. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Inside knowledge

Ireland 'a long way off' All Blacks says Munster legend

Jason Holland, the former Munster centre and coach, says Joe Schmidt’s side have little chance on Sunday.

JASON HOLLAND MADE himself a legend at Munster in almost 13 years of playing and coaching at the province.

Now back home in New Zealand as an assistant coach at Canterbury, Holland will always have a fondness for Ireland. However, he doesn’t have encouraging words ahead of this weekend’s clash between his native land and the country that gave him so many memories.

The Taranaki native feels Ireland’s repeated failures against the All Blacks have made beating them an insurmountable task.

“I know when I was over there they could have easily put the All Blacks away a couple of times but just didn’t have that belief to nail it,” Holland told Rugby Heaven.

They are a long way off from doing it this time, I think. The Irish are probably a notch or two below where they have been in the past.”

The former Munster stalwart can see exactly what kind of style Joe Schmidt wants his Ireland team to play, but points out that the aging nature of a large portion of the squad means that there is a tough period still to overcome.

“He obviously wants to play a game where he encourages skill and space recognition and ball going into space. But half the battle is that he has lost three or four of his key guys and is probably going to lose [Brian] O’Driscoll in the next year or so too.

That is going to be his battle, to get the young guys coming through. And young guys with fresh ideas might turn it around for him.”

Holland also pointed out that an over-emphasis on winning in Ireland’s youth game has meant many budding stars have been held back by poor handling skills. The Kiwi had a spell as Munster backs coach, and received criticism from some quarters for how the southern province’s back-line performed.

However, Holland says that Irish underage rugby has been based around 10-man rugby too much in the past, at the expense of basic skills in the backs.

“The schools competitions were so competitive that there was no ambition to play any [running] footy. It was about being big and strong and winning 9-6 rather than developing backs.

“And that is a massive thing because you would get backs coming into the set-up and they can’t catch-and-pass up to the standards of a professional rugby player.”

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