Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rugby World Cup 1: Ireland Goners

There is a basic design problem with this tournament. The Northern teams are awakening from hibernation while the Southern Hemisphere teams are in the midst of their season, sharp, practised, all systems go. The final will obviously be between New Zealand and South Africa.

I don't think Ireland can now even reach the quarter-finals. The smartest thing Eddie O'Sullivan has done so far is to negotiate a new four-year contract before the start of the tournament. France will beat Ireland easily (maybe even with a bonus point). Ireland and Argentina will be close but even if Ireland win they won't get a bonus point. Ergo, we are eliminated. The pool will then end up with France having 15 points (or 16), Argentina having 14 points, and Ireland having 12 (if they manage to beat Argenina).

Ireland seemed to lack energy, intelligence, and commitment against Georgia, and they were certainly tactically out- manoeuvred - the long ball up the middle was all it took. It's astonishing that Georgia had nearly 60% possession and field position. It's lucky for us that Georgia had little creativity behind the scrum and that the out-half's drop kicks slipped wide. Where to from here? Bring on Quinlan, Flannery, Reddan and maybe Trimble - a bit of energy and ambition wouldn't hurt.

England were equally woeful against South Africa. The lumbering Farrell and the veteran Catt should not be playing international rugby, they're too slow. Only Wales from the 6-Nations have shown anything like the intensity needed to unsettle the tri-nations teams.

And by the way isn't it a disgrace that on the world stage we are represented musically by that banal Phil Coulter anthem. The shame of it.