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'This is the great thing about where Ireland are: It's actually harder to find things that can go wrong'

Gordon D’Arcy was worried about Ireland even before their trimming at Twickenham, but he still sees a way out of their current rut.

Dominic Smith Expert Electrical together with former Ireland and Leinster rugby player, Gordon D’Arcy, has launched its exclusive new TV and Home Entertainment showroom offering the latest TV and home entertainment solutions at its flagship Dundrum store.
Dominic Smith Expert Electrical together with former Ireland and Leinster rugby player, Gordon D’Arcy, has launched its exclusive new TV and Home Entertainment showroom offering the latest TV and home entertainment solutions at its flagship Dundrum store.

IF IT AIN’T broke, don’t fix it — but if it’s nearly all broke, where does the fix begin?

In his Irish Times column last week, Gordon D’Arcy pondered as to whether the glass was a quarter full or three-quarters empty for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.

England swept that glass clean off the countertop at Twickenham on Saturday, shattering many Irish supporters’ belief that those in green are capable of reversing their 2019 decline in time for Japan.

The signs aren’t there, frankly. There are no positives to take from a record 42-point trimming at the hands of the Old Enemy, however it’s spun. Just ask Peter O’Mahony.

But there is a plus to be found even amid the dreariness of this week’s autopsy, per D’Arcy’s reckoning. Ireland’s difficulty is also Ireland’s opportunity; they can’t possibly get worse.

“So, everybody wants a crystal ball or a magic eight ball or something — the snake oil salesman — to tell them that it’s going to be okay, that this is what we have to look at and this is where we have to go,” the former international centre said on this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly podcast. “But it’s hard at the moment because we’ve seen very little over the last two games.

“You would expect a seismic…something to come this weekend. Those players should be very, very motivated. They should be pretty pissed off going in this weekend, and that in itself should evoke some sort of a passionate response. That is a good starting point, and then you can build on that. There is a way out of here, but it does start with a passionate performance.

Now, you want to be keeping those overly passionate performances for a quarter-final — fingers crossed, now, that we get there — but at the moment, just to settle the nerves, just to put the pendulum back into the middle… We’ve swung from one extreme last November, beating the All Blacks, to where we are today which is the other extreme. So we need something now just to level the playing field — for everybody: to take a bit of pressure off the players, off the coaching staff, and for the supporters and the people who are very excited about this World Cup to pause and draw breath.

Gordon Darcy launch 13 As one of Ireland’s leading premium electrical and home entertainment retailers, employing over 40 staff members, Dominic Smith Expert Electrical has three stores in Ireland - Dublin (Dundrum); Wexford (Gorey); and Cavan Town.

But the form left behind in 2018 is “not where Ireland need to be,” says D’Arcy, “because you’re looking backwards. Ireland need to look forward. They need to find what’s in the future for this Ireland team. If you’re always looking backwards… It’s very hard to move forward with one foot in the past.

“That (2018) was a performance against New Zealand, and at the moment it seems to be a cross that the Irish team are struggling under. They need to forget about it and just draw a line under it.

“They need to move forward from here,” he says. But how?

“Basics. Fundamentals. Can you win your own set piece? Can you get into multi-phase? Can you get quick ball? Can you get forwards moving onto the ball before the nine is passing? Can you have a little bit of different tempo between the 10 and the nine?

This is the great thing about being where Ireland are: there’s so many things that can go right, it’s actually harder to find things that can go wrong now. So this is a great opportunity for whoever is lucky enough to get on the pitch this weekend. There’s a huge opportunity for them to be a catalyst for something really positive.

rory-best-and-conor-murray-dejected-on-the-sidelines Ireland's Rory Best and Conor Murray dejected on the sidelines during Saturday's defeat at Twickenham. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In weeks such as these, with fingers being pointed in the direction of individuals from the outside world, the priority in camp will be for the collective to circle the wagons and work towards providing a response on the Principality Stadium turf this weekend.

But it can’t simply be the usual suspects — the coaches and core leaders — who rally the troops. D’Arcy points towards three tiers within Schmidt’s setup, all of whom must share the responsibility of retrieving the situation.

“There are probably three stakeholders involved in it,” he says. “You have the management, you have the leadership group, but then you also have the individuals.

“The management kind of set the scene and map out the parameters, kind of going, like, ‘This is what we need to do. This is the reality of it.’

“Then the senior players become facilitators. And then it comes down to the individuals.

Individuals have to get into that headspace — just to perform; whatever the fundamental, whatever they’re being asked to do, just to do it at a certain pace and a certain tempo. And that’s getting yourself mentally ready for that [next] game — creating that edge.

“So there’s three parties, really, involved in there.”

rory-best-niall-scannell-rob-herring-cj-stander-tommy-odonnell-jean-kleyn-and-andrew-porter Rory Best, Niall Scannell, Rob Herring, CJ Stander, Tommy O'Donnell, Jean Kleyn and Andrew Porter during training at Carton House, Kildare, this week. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

D’Arcy maintains that prior to these warm-ups, Schmidt would likely have had “25, 26 people fairly nailed on” for seats on the plane to Japan, but that will now have “changed considerably.”

He adds: “The makeup of the squad in terms of the forwards-backs ratio is going to change. And also, maybe the perceived ranking he had of players is potentially changing as well. That will play out more in the next two games, the order of merit in positions.”

What’s certain is that these next two fixtures, away and at home to Warren Gatland’s Welshmen in that order, have taken on an extra significance for a team bereft of coherence and confidence.

“The English game was important and we took two steps backwards from the Italian game,” says the former Leinster 12. “We also thought the Italian game was an under-performance and the English game puts that into perspective.

What happens next gives real insight into character, into culture, into what’s happening with the internal mechanisms — the stuff that we have no access to.

“We make views and we make assumptions based on what we see in 80 minutes once a week. We’re going to get another one of those this week. But that’s going to give you a big insight into where the players are — physically and mentally.”

Dominic Smith Expert Electrical together with former Ireland and Leinster rugby player, Gordon D’Arcy, has launched its exclusive new TV and Home Entertainment showroom offering the latest TV and home entertainment solutions at its flagship Dundrum store. For more information visit dominicsmithelectrical.com or follow @dominicsmithelectrical.

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