The front row crisis
Ireland in New Zealand. The chicken has come home to roost for the I.R.F.U and the Provinces over the lack of front row coaches and development officers with front row credentials.
In the past Cork and Limerick provided front rows off the club conveyor belt. Schools also gave a lot of time on front row development.
Ulster also had a tradition of good front rows. Connacht also had some good talent e.g. Ray McLaughlin and Kieran Fitzgerald
The situation now is that all the provinces depend on non Irish qualified props and hookers and now we are paying the price in New Zealand the Irish tradition of good hookers and props has gone.
With so many players injured, this tour was always going to be difficult, giving players their first taste of International rugby in New Zealand could either break their spirit and confidence, or they could see what it takes to be a world class player and drive on. It could also bring some players down to earth, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.
The First Test
Ireland started well good running at the All Blacks looked promising the only thing changing to a handling game at high tempo from Irelands conservative kicking game was never going to be easy.
Johnny Sexton’s style is based on a fairly average kicking game, to get him to change to high tempo was always going to be difficult.
Mistakes come as you are trying to play a different style of game. So it was no real surprise when mistakes crept into the Irish game under pressure from the full on All Blacks defence.
New Zealand probed down Zebo’s wing without much success then they changed to McFadden’s wing, he is a good Rabo player but not an International winger.
Savea the All Black winger, is that class and Kearney with McFadden, found this out the hard way. Savea scored three tries, but you couldn’t judge him against this opposition.
Ireland were outclassed all over the field as the game wore on. They were made to pay for every mistake and even Brian O’Driscoll was guilty of turning over ball, and we paid dearly for this.
Donnacha Ryan was Ireland’s stand out player, it is disappointing that Dan Tuohy doesn’t seem to be maturing into a quality player. Cian Healy had a good outing and Stephen O’Brien gave his all as did Rory Best.
Keith Earls was the best of the backs, but really we were overrun by Carter who was sublime.
Conrad Smith is a favourite of mine and doesn’t get the praise he deserves Kieran Reid is powerhouse number eight and leads from the front. What can Ireland do?
The loss of Ferris and O’Connell is a huge blow to Ireland, Ross could be back for the next game. Kidneys talk about how hard it is to select the Irish team during the six nations rings a bit hollow. All we can hope is that the younger players will learn from the experience.
Junior World Cup in South Africa
Thankfully all is not lost for Irish Rugby. Our under 20 team have given a great account of themselves in the competition causing a big upset by beating hosts in South Africa 23-19.
They covered themselves in glory, JJ Hanrahan was outstanding in dreadful conditions, scoring a try, making another and kicking points it was a consummate performance by the Castleisland player. But all over the field Ireland excelled their dynamic play, rocked the South Africans and the performance of the forwards was top class.
Ireland then took on England again, they wouldn’t have been expected to win this. Against a huge English pack once again, the Irish forwards were outstanding and the backs clinical in finishing chances.
So we went into a 15-3 lead. In the second half England reverted to their mauling bulldozing style and Ireland, having to play two games in four days, ran out of steam to be just caught.
Great credit due to this team. It was great to see an all-Irish scrum stand up to the opposition so hopefully this vital area is now getting more attention then in the past. Final score 20-15.
They then went on to beat Italy 41-12. If South Africa beat England by less than four tries we would qualify for the semi finals.
It looked good at half time, South Africa leading, but no tries and nothing to suggest they would score them. England completely disintegrated in the second half and South Africa plated some super rugby comfortably reaching their goal.
Ireland play England in the 5th and 6th place play off Sunday 17th of June at 5pm. Tadhg Furlong plays in the front row. He has had a great tournament. He has Whiddy Island connections with the O’Leary family and could have a great career ahead of him.