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Opinion: Bringing Paddy Wallace in was Ireland's first mistake of many

Former Leinster player Emmet O’Rafferty on the many talking points arising from Ireland’s record defeat to New Zealand.
Jun 24th 2012, 2:57 PM 1,758 5

WHAT IS IT about Paddy Wallace? When you pick a squad for a three-Test series you presumably consider various permutations and combinations and allow for injuries. If you then parachute a player from the beach in Spain straight into the test side, how do you justify it?

It sends a terrible signal to the squad, shows muddled thinking and starts to explain the disaster that unfolded on Saturday morning.

It is easy to say that the performance yesterday against the All-Blacks was unacceptable. But why? It’s hard to know on what basis the team prepared during the week.

Having come off a disappointing but excellent performance the previous week the strategy should first of all have been made clear to the players. Despite losing Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D’Arcy the job was to build on the belief and then decide how.

Players need to know where they stand. We had to know that the All-Blacks were going to address the breakdown and up the intensity. We started the game well and then after a few minutes we were suddenly playing tip rugby???

A wise rugby head once said: “Players don’t know how to play the game until they’ve stopped playing it.”

This is true, to varying degrees, of even the greatest players. Brian O’Driscoll made three crucial errors of judgment in the first quarter, the first an offload to nobody that gave possession away cheaply. This smacked of desperation or a team playing catch up. It started a trend that was to continue.

The number of poor passes by Irish players in possession was the first thing that was unacceptable.

That we started the game in this manner tells me that the management had not managed the players well from the neck up during the week. This team has made the mistake before of trying to be too expansive at the start. Against Italy or Scotland you might get away with it, not against the All-Blacks.

We needed to construct our game, establish some platforms and build the intensity.

That had to start with the breakdown and our defensive line speed. Knowing that the All-Blacks would focus on the breakdown,  having lost out last week, we should have put extra bodies in there early on. Instead we seemed to have fewer bodies and of course the All-Blacks put in extra bodies.

This made us look feeble because we were always outnumbered, not because we weren’t physically able for them.

If you start with Conor Murray you are making a statement that you are going to get your forwards driving at them, play around the fringes, use the short side etc. When we did get decent possession we tried to move the ball, despite it being slow, having not built any platforms.

Our defensive strategy seems to be all over the place.

We went back to the practices of the first test, slow line speed and letting them get their hands and bodies through the tackle. Having fixed it the previous week and with a new midfield combination there should have been an extra focus on it. We needed to do a lot more hitting the opposition low and bringing them to ground.

There is a place for holding the player up and trying to create a maul but some of our efforts smacked of indecision,  which made us look weak.

This is a great All-Blacks team and they are world champions. We have no right to expect to beat them but we should expect to compete and sometimes to win as we should have done last week. They are not 60 points better than Ireland.

Emmet O’Rafferty is a former second row forward with Leinster

Memory lane: Four past meetings between England and Italy >

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Emmet O’Rafferty


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