Ireland 0 – All Blacks 60
THIS really was a game to forget for Ireland.
I thought something like this was going to happen in the second test.
Not as bad, but a heavy defeat, I wouldn’t have expected it to be as humiliating as it turned out.
What happened was hard to take.
A zero score line was a body blow I didn’t expect.
There was a time when Declan Kidney was a sure pair of hands, times when he made decisions, which were a surprise to supporters and pundits, they came off or he was quick to move and rectify the situation.
His decision to pick Paddy Wallace off the beaches of Portugal to play the All Blacks will go down as probably the strangest and worst decision of his career.
He has persisted with Wallace, when most people see him as not up to International standards.
From the kick off the All Blacks attacked down his channel and it was one way traffic as they piled on 21 points in 20 odd minutes.
Game set and match, with three quarters of the match to go. Again, as in the first match Brian O’ Driscoll, so often Ireland’s saviour had a game to forget.
Wild passing and offloads swallowed up by the All Black back row, his mistakes ended up with us standing under our posts waiting for the conversion.
All over the field we were destroyed.
The decision to play Wallace in preference to a lot of other options was a vote of no confidence in a number of players.
McFadden is a better centre than a winger, Sexton is comfortable in the centre with O’Gara at out half.
Keith Earls, who has done nothing wrong in the centre, had a very good outing against Sonny Bill Williams in the first test, would’ve been a better option.
This is where I would have a very serious complaint against Declan Kidney, why he didn’t take the dreadful Wallace off when he was clearly having a nightmare. Throughout his Irish career as coach he has been slow to use the bench, his continued use of Wallace is a mystery to me.
The whole midfield defence was in tatters. The back row didn’t get out and make the tackles, while O’Brien, McLaughlin and O’Mahony were just blown away by a rampant All Blacks back row.
But all over the field Ireland were outclassed. Murray battled hard, but with his forwards on the back foot he had an impossible job, Sexton just didn’t feature.
There was some improvement when O’Gara came on, but changes were too little, too late, is this an ego thing?
It certainly wasn’t a problem for Kidney when he was with Munster. In the second half, Hose Gear gave McFadden a roasting.
He also gave Earls an elbow into the face when he went in to the tackle too high. Kearney doesn’t have a great positional sense, and often when the All Blacks broke the gain line, one or two passes and they were through.
Donnacha Ryan made probably the only line break for Ireland and there was no one there to support.
It summed up Irelands day, any time they got in side the All Blacks half they gave the ball away.
What is interesting about Ryan is that if Paul O’Connell hadn’t got injured he probably wouldn’t have started any Six Nations matches this year, even though he was preferred over Donnacha O’Callaghan with Munster, Donnacha O’Callaghan then found himself number three on the tour behind Tuohy.
So not much continuity there. Where do we go from here?
Best, Healey and Ross did little wrong; Ryan was easily Ireland’s best player. O’Mahony will be kept on.
O’Brian had a poor season and may not live up to his early promise, he should have been dropped to the bench with Heaslip during the six nations, but again Kidney didn’t act.
A hard look at the under 20 back row could yield results.
Kidney needs to take control, as players were allowed drift through the season without being called to order and it looks to me as if the management were taking soft options.
Murray will grow into his position.
Sexton is not a world-class player, hopefully he has learned a lesson, he is well down the pecking order on the world stage.
Brian O’Driscoll should be released from the captaincy immediately, he will not be around for the next World Cup, so we need to blood a new leader.
We need a new midfield pairing, Earls deserves his place I feel in the centre, I don’t rate Wallace or McFadden.
Kearney is a strange case, he can be good when he is switched on but he also has an off button, this has to be eradicated.
Kidney has to be ruthless, the kind of resources and money now being spent on our international players is such that there are no excuses, nowhere to hide.
We have been given a hard lesson, hope fully we will take it on board and sloppy underperforming will be a thing of the past.
Ireland 18 – France 7
If ever there were two totally contrasting games on one weekend involving Irish teams on the world stage, in rugby terms, I can’t think of a better one.
This was a comprehensive win by an Irish team, they could have given the excuses being trotted out for their senior compatriots long hard season, blah, blah, blah.
But no, they got down to business from the start.
France never got to the pitch of the game.
When they did attack they were either driven back or were forced into mistakes.
At the end they completely lost their discipline and were well beaten.
Anytime Ireland got into the 22, France infringed. JJ Hanrahan was majestic with the boot and delivered a six out of seven success rate.
Once again he showed great maturity and control.
Certainly if he keeps this standard up he will be a very strong contender for the Number 10 shirt.
Hopefully he will get his opportunity from the Irish management.
What I particularly like about him is that he can break the gain line by running straight at his opposite number, something that is lacking in our senior out halves.
He could join the illustrious Castleisland men who have done the town proud over the years in the green jersey.
Henderson had another huge game and has to be another coming through very quickly so there is life yet in the Irish.
South Africa won the tournament, beaten by Ireland in the pool games.
Ireland have to consider themselves unlucky to have had to play England in a field that was a swamp four days after a really tough game against the Springboks.
I feel, and am sure the Irish backroom feel, they would have got a semi-final place if this game was played on any kind of reasonable surface.
By beating France, Ireland had their best ever finish, and in two years time will have a better seeding and won’t have to play two top sides one after the other, this allows for better squad rotation.
Coach Ruddock must also have put his name up there for next year when Declan Kidneys job will come up for grabs, you have to feel that Kidney will need a miracle to hold on, but you never can tell with the IRFU.