Did you watch the Ireland V France match on Valentine’s day or were you busy being pampered by him or her?
Well, if you wanted your pulse to be racing and adrenaline levels up, the game would have done that to you.
The dust has settled now on the game, so all the emotions felt straight after the game are gone and now we can reflect on what has happened. Im on optimist, I like to look at the positives and see where things can be improved, and that was the theme of Sunday’s game, where do Ireland need to improve?
My answer today is, in a few areas, and we’re probably not as far away from the Joe Schmidt ere as you’d think. Ireland lost to Wales over a week ago, there wasn’t much hope going into the game as it was an away fixture and Wales are strong at home, however as the game went on Ireland looked to have a bit of go in them, bit of a fight and were battling nicely with Wales. Then bang, Peter O’Mahony’s shoulder goes into a lads face, he gets a red card and now Ireland are down to 14 men, serious pressure.
Ireland pulled their socks up, put in a good fight and were defeated, however we were in a situation at the end of the game where we had a kick to the corner which would have resulted in a line out maul and we could have scored a try from it, but we didn’t, Billy Burns missed his target by a bit and the game was over.
Who was going to face the French?
Last week we all thought that was the end of Billy Burn’s career at international level or it had done some serious damage to it, but it didn’t, he was named in the team to start against France, and Conor Murray got a late injury so Jamison Gibson Park was introduced.
Dave Kilcoyne’s name was left off of the team to play France, I assume it was an injury as I didn’t see any other statement on it, so this paved the way for Carlow man Ed Byrne.
It’s good to see the local lads getting on the Irish team, before with Sean O’Brien and now Ed Byrne, you have to support local sure.
Ed was a replacement but came on for Cian Healy at 41 minutes as a blood sub, went off at 56 minutes and came back on for Cian again on 69 minutes. Ed wasn’t named on the Irish team against Wales, however he did get a few caps last Autumn in the internationals.
Iain Henderson started in the second row and was named captain, he’s known for being a leader in the Irish and Ulster teams, however he had to do with a place on the bench against Wales, as Tadhg Beirne was given an opportunity to impress after going well for Munster in the PRO 14 before that.
So is Billy Burns the back up to Johnny Sexton? Is that set in stone? Billy was no great shakes against Wales and he didn’t bring anything extra to the important French game, so why have him there? Ross Byrne was named as the replacement 10 for the French game, however he’s got a lot of experience in European games as a 10, and has more Ireland experience than Billy, so why not start him?
He’s known as a game manager, and has a good boot on him too be it out of hand or off the tee, and most importantly he’s consistent.
There was a passage of play against France where Billy was running a line out to towards the right wing, he had 4 or so backs beside him and there were only three french players defending that side, he should have passed the ball to let them run against the French, but he kicked it away, strange. He also missed a penalty early on from in front of the posts, now in fairness it happens the best of 10’s but to me it’s showing a lack of temperament for that level of rugby. Ian Madigan and John Cooney do all the place kicking for Ulster, so you have to ask why Ireland are using a non kicking out half that has no game management? I’ve nothing personal against Billy, I just question logic, it would have been the same if Ireland would have won yesterday.
I always wonder do the IRFU have a provincial balancing act in play or quotas? So for example they have to have a minimum of Connacht players, a minimum of Ulster, or you can’t have one province occupying a certain amount of places per position? Jack Carty must feel very aggrieved, he’s put in the hard yards for Connacht and has form, but doesn’t get a look in at back up outhalf.
Bits and pieces to tidy up
I don’t think Ireland are as far away from success as we think we are. In the post match interviews yesterday, Andy Farrell and any of the players that were interviewed all agreed it was the small things letting them down, basics. Ireland have made a lot of handling errors and some bad decisions too. It’s not long into Farrell’s tenure as Ireland manager and he’ll be judged on how and where we finish up the Six Nations.
We are nowhere near Joe Schmidts style, but Andy Farrell isn’t Joe, despite working with him he will have his own ideas of management. Ireland showed determination and wilfulness to beat the French, but it was the little things that let them down. A missed penalty kick, defensive errors and ball handling were some of the main things noted. Ireland had opportunities to win that game and at the end of the day they only lost by two points to what I consider is an unreal French team, some of their big stars are only 21 years of age and were thrust into the spotlight at the age of 19 and were told, “sink or swim”.
Tactically it looked as if the scrum half and back three were told to kick the ball back over the French heads as much as possible, and that is what they did, but when Ireland got some dominance, Ireland continued to kick the ball when instinct would have told them to run it, were they strangled by a tactic and not allowed to play what was in front of them?
The thing is, we don’t know, it’s hard to see what the Irish coaching team is going for, aiming for when some of the player selections leave the experts scratching their heads, and the gulf between international standard and Pro 14 level is huge in some positions.
So what happens now, do we use the remainder of the Six Nations as a way to blood some new young guys, or does Andy Farrell try and save his job?
I predicted France to win the Six Nations, and Ireland to come third, but I’ll have to revise that now.