History in the making?

11 11 2008

I like rugby. I’m not a huge sports fan. Football bores me, golf annoys me and apart from that one time I had to go for a lie down after watching some eastern European nineteen year old throwing a hula hoop around in the Olympics a few years ago I’ve never really paid that much attention to gymnastics either. Now don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the way in which people dedicate their lives to working towards being the best at what they do, fine tuning their bodies and regimenting their eating and sleeping patterns to work around their training schedules, and I’d love to have that sort of discipline but I don’t. But fair play to you if you do.

Anyway, this Saturday Ireland take on the mighty All Blacks in Croke Park as part of this years Guinness Autumn Internationals series. Ireland don’t have the best record against the All Blacks, having won a rather disappointing no matches out of 125 (I think) since 1905. The advantage the all blacks have always had is in their ability to field backs who can maul like forwards and forwards that can run like backs. 22 stone of Maori running 100m in ten seconds. Shite. However, in recent years (apart from the rather embarrassing end to Eddie O’Sullivan’s reign) Ireland have been punching way above our weight on the rugby pitch, beating pretty much everyone in the run up to the last world cup including Australia, the soon to be world champions South Africa and only loosing out on a six nations grand slam to an unlucky last minute try by the french. Then it all fell apart disastrously. But every few years we meet the All Blacks, and for some reason feel like we are going out to compete, and not to win. We seem to believe that putting up a good fight is good enough and to come out losers is OK so long as we seemed valiant in the attempt.

France seem to be different. France have no problems in rumbling the All Blacks, and its down to one simple thing. The French are not afraid of the All Blacks. They look past the hype and look for holes in the armour, find them with alarming regularity and exploit them, and in turn the All Blacks know that the French are not in awe of them and seem put out by the prospect of facing a team who seem intent with getting on and playing to win rather than having the decency to cry off at half time, and I think this is something Ireland can learn from.

I have always had massive respect for the french rugby team. They have a wonderful, fluid style of play. Punching holes in the center and setting up a winger for a fifty meter dash to the line. Fantastic stuff and at polar opposite to the up the jersey pick and drive approach taken by the Irish for so long. But you go with what you know and it served us well but now the game is changing. Reading an interview with Paul O’Connell today, I think the only thing that has kept Ireland from finally turning over the All Blacks is a lack of belief on their own part. The All Blacks are as much an ideology in world rugby as they are a team. The fierceness of the reputation that precedes them is, as it is in no other cases I can think of in sport, most often matched by their fierceness on the pitch and in effectively starting, playing and finishing convincing victories in all areas of the pitch. But how big a part does the preceding reputation play in the performance on the pitch? I have noted, even in Ireland’s last match against them in wellington where (in my humble opinion) an ill advised temper flare up on the part of Marcus Horan turned the tide of the game against us that the All Blacks are notoriously shaky on the back foot. Its unfamiliar territory to them and I firmly believe that if Ireland can take to the pitch this Saturday armed with the right frame of mind and take a lead into half time then we could be in with a real shot at history.

But, its all down to the frame of mind, and there is no better man in the circumstances than Declan Kidney to give players the belief in themselves that just might make it possible. In many ways we are still reeling from the mismanagement of Eddie O’Sullivan, but if we can find the right mix of opportunity and effective talent deployment then I really think we can get back into our game. Maybe not in time for this Saturday, but world Cup 2011 is calling, and a fair result in this years tournaments will give us a reasonably favourable qualifying group. And who knows. If a small team of sporting ideologues from south west Ireland can rise to be champions of Europe, then surely we have the legs to climb further up the mountain.

Ireland 12 – All Blacks 10




5 responses

14 11 2008
Bock the Robber

I have only two words for you, but they might be the two words that win this for us.

Keith Earls.

14 11 2008

I heard ROG on the radio last week comparing Keith to Brian O’Driscoll when he appeared on the scene first. The guy is a legend in the making. I think in the next few seasons he’s going to be chomping at the bit for the number 13 jersey at provincial and internatinal level. He’s a joy to watch.

17 11 2008
Bock the Robber

Unfortunately, as we now know, he didn’t get much opportunity to make an impact on the New Zealand game. Could that be because Kidney had already decided we wouldn’t beat the All Blacks and was saving him for the Argentina game? Surely not!

Meanwhile, it’s the eve of D-Day here in Limerick as we wait out the long hours before a depleted Munster team take on New Zealand.

18 11 2008

So long as the spanking isnt too embarrassing…..

24 11 2008
Bock the Robber

As it turns out, the spanking went the other direction for most of the game and a two-point winning margin leaves us ahead on aggregate. I can’t wait for the 2038 decider.

No. I literally can’t wait.

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