After watching Ireland play USA in the Rugby World Cup my mind is immediately drawn back to France 2007. That couple of weeks brought tears to my eyes as we watched Ireland embarrass not only themselves but also the entire country.
Like someone finding out that their lover was cheating on them we felt betrayed. Ireland were at best desperate. It was the same old story of trying to force the game. Moves that at this stage should be cemented into the team’s game-plan are not coming off with no one seeming to know what the next person is going to do. Time and time again whenever a break would be made the Irish player would find himself isolated or at best poorly supported. A lack of belief or a lack of fitness led to the likes of Ferris and co. making line breaks only to find no one on their shoulder for the offload. After watching Sonny Bill Williams and the All Blacks showing how effective the off load can be you would think that the Irish would be a bit wiser.
Next week’s match against Australia is the most important game in Irish rugby arguably since the Grand Slam wining final against Wales in 2009. Victory against the Wallabies means a likely quarter final match up against Wales and then a possible semi-final against either France or England. Any of these opponents are beatable which means that the path to a World Cup final is laid out in its simplest form.
The highs of 2009 have barely been reached again under Declan Kidney and a lot of questions are being asked about this team’s psychological preparedness for this tournament. Ireland do not seem to be playing with any sense of cohesion or coordination. The backs lack creativity, the forwards are not communicating properly and for some reason the half backs are lacking the self-belief that has made the likes of Sexton, O’Gara and Reddan into household names.
Ireland have to rediscover that form. After the disaster that was 2007, rugby lost a bit of bit of its appeal to me. I was like a spurned lover. I didn’t want to get hurt again so I kept my emotions hidden and swore that I would never get too worked up over Ireland’s chances of the Six Nations or even beating France! Then 2009 came along and there is videos of me crying singing Fields of Athenry in the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, hugging two northern lads I had never met before ( and completely ignoring my long-sufffering wife who had actually paid for the trip!). So this World Cup finds me once again back in the same position as last time but with a slight difference; in that I am scared shitless to start believing again in case we get dumped on.
I do honestly believe that on their day Ireland are good enough to beat anybody and even go as far as progressing to a World Cup final. And I know I am not alone in that belief, even if few will admit to it openly. But as far the team getting over this mental block, I don’t know. Ireland will have to look deep down inside of themselves and ask those questions. Lads like O’Gara, O’Driscoll, Murphy and O’Connell and others are probably looking at their last World Cup. If they want to go out with heads held high then it better happen in the six day turnaround to next Saturday.
I swear to god my nerves can’t handle this anymore…..