Close sidebar

The Six Nations Is No Longer The Yardstick For Ireland To Measure Themselves By

So that didn’t really go to plan. Sadly Ireland were again outclassed in a World Cup quarter-final and have failed to break their record of never having won a knock out game in the competition. Also the campaign must be regarded a failure as the expectation was set at reaching the semi-finals, nothing less. So what went wrong?

On the day of the quarter-final itself, Ireland lacked intensity in every department for the opening twenty minutes. The damage was done and after those opening minutes the game was effectively lost barring a miracle.

In fairness to all the players, they bravely dug in and pulled it close to going level but ultimately a lack of accuracy and later tiredness led to Ireland being blown away by a fantastic Argentinian side.

Ireland were also suffering with a lack of leadership and experience at times with the likes of Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony and Jonathan Sexton all out injured. An unfortunate end to a competition that began with so much hope for Irish fans and players.

But in reality it is clear that it wasn’t Ireland alone that were off the mark this weekend. All the Northern Hemisphere sides went out of the competition, joining England and Italy who were eliminated in the pool stages. This points to a gulf in the standard between the two hemispheres.

Ireland’s use of the Six Nations as a yardstick doesn’t provide a true picture of their standing. When the performances of France and England at this World Cup are taken into account, one must wonder if they are the teams that we should be measuring ourselves against anymore.

The influence of the French league on style of play has damaged the game that is played in the Northern Hemisphere. The overuse of the box kick and Garryowen, power plays and playing by numbers with large players just isn’t good enough to compete with the all-round game of the Southern Hemisphere teams. Unfortunately it also looks as if the Top 14 sides will dominate the European Cup for the coming years with their financial resources so we can expect this trend to continue.

Ireland could attempt to restructure their game as Munster did under Rob Penny, but given how that experiment went it’s probably not the best option to throw the baby out with the bath water. A more long-term solution will of course be to train younger players with the skills that the All-Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies train theirs with, in particular handling skills and the ability to offload in the tackle. This will then filter through the system and make its way to the international team. Then we may see more of a southern styled game.

The more realistic option in the mean time is to possibly return to Ireland’s more tried and tested strategy from a few years ago. Play the territory using the out-half and upping the passing speed off the base of the ruck. This gave our back line greater success than the modern power plays. We have traditionally had great finishers when given the space that quick ruck ball offers and it would eliminate the static receivers Ireland are guilty of having at times. Playing the territory would allow us to utilise more effectively our powerful maul/line-out set-up by pinning the opposition inside their half of the pitch.

These musings on how to go about change aside, its clear something is going to have to give in order for the northern teams to be competitors in the World Cup again. Ireland at the very least need greater exposure to the teams from outside the Six Nations and with this we may see the gap close once again. Playing the teams of the Rugby Championship regularly has certainly made Argentina into a completely different team and we can now say they have become a full test side. We wish them well as they head into the all-southern semi-finals at the World Cup 2015.

Andrew Gloster, Pundit Arena.

Read More About: , , , , , , , , , ,

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.