Scotland 10-6 Ireland
France 19-12 Ireland
Ireland 22–26 France
Ireland 9-20 England
Australia 6 – 15 Ireland
Ireland 36 – 6 Italy
Ireland 10 22 Wales
Ireland 21 – 23 Wales
Ireland 42 – 10 Italy
France 17 – 17 Ireland
Ireland 32 – 14 Scotland
England 30 – 9 Ireland
New Zealand 42 – 10 Ireland
New Zealand 22 – 19 Ireland
New Zealand 60 – 0 Ireland
Pluses – we beat Australia! Lost narrowly to the All Blacks, and at a push got a draw with France
Negatives – takes a deep breath – lost 60-0 to the All Blacks, knocked out of the WC by Wales when we should have been there or thereabouts. And look at the losses NZ 3 England 2 Wales 2 France 1 Scotland 1. Basically, Italy and Australia were the only teams we beat consistently. I haven’t included the USA and Russia, because if we can’t beat them we can all go home.
So, what’s the reason for all of this, when we have arguably the two best club teams in Europe. And Munster. Not arguably in the best the best two teams in Europe, but a pretty good team none the less. We are struggling a bit with the age of the best players – there are a few giants of the game who have retired, or are held together by bandages and plasters.
But after all that, we managed to up in the IRB rankings, to 7th. I love the IRB rankings! If you can lose and go up, we should keep Kidney forever, because at this rate we’ll be no. 1 in no time!
We have been struggling with a few key positions, mostly at lock and in the front row. So one of the positives of the NZ was what looks like the new starting lock combination of Tuohy and Ryan, and a new tighthead in the shape of Declan Fitzpatrick.
In the next 2-3 years we are going to lose Ross, O’Connell, O’Driscoll, O’Gara and D’Arcy. We have some replacements coming through, but at centre we have a big gap looming. So far Kidney has used Earls and Wallace there. Earls improves each match, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be a center he’s a wing or a full back.
That is the nub of the problem we have right now, in that we need change, but have an ultra conservative coach, who’s making change mainly as a result of injuries. Our style of play doesn’t fit our skill set either, it’s not great to watch, and it’s not giving us the results. We have the firepower in our backline, but we are firing blanks. We had a great win over Australia, but the only time the team had the hairs stand up on the back of my neck was the second NZ match. Straight after that match, I had some good words for Kidney. I’m going to have to take them back now.
I think it’s time for change. We need a coach who can foster new talent, and play to our strengths. My ideal candidate is Joel Schmidt – it wouldn’t be great for Leinster, but I think he could really do things with Ireland. Mike Ruddock would be in the frame too, that’s a smashing job he did with the U20’s, 5th and the only team to beat the Baby Boks. Personally, I think it’s too early for Connor O’Shea, although I wouldn’t mind him at Leinster! Graham Henry?
I think it’s how and when, and not if anymore.