Ireland, Organised Chaos?

29 08 2011
Pic: Ken Sutton -

Andrew Trimble gets smashed by Manu Tuilagi and Mike Tindall. Pic: Ken Sutton

This article has been floating around in my head over the last week and may be wishful thinking on my part, I’m still not convinced if it is true, but I’m going to put it out there and see if it gets some discussion going…

Ireland have lost all four of the World Cup warm-up games where they were expected to win three from four, at a minimum. They have dropped from 4th in the IRB rankings to 8th in one month, this is their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003. While there have been marked improvements in the set-piece, their once best-of-breed backline has now turned into the teams major weakness. It has looked sterile and bereft of ideas in the last few games, offering little or no penetration and seemingly no game plan. This beggars belief when you look on paper and see the caliber of players that have made the team sheets in the last 4 games: O’Driscoll, Earls, Fitzgerald, D’Arcy, Bowe, Trimble, Kearney, Murphy are all players that any team in the world would be envious of, but yet when combined in the current system they look one-dimensional. Does this strike anyone as strange?

What if…
Ireland purposely have been selecting strange combinations in the backline, They have played a total of 6 players in the centers over the last 4 games, even out half Jonathan Sexton got a run out against France in the 12 jersey. What if the backs have been told to tone it down, nothing fancy, just ship it wide as part of Declan Kidney’s masterplan. These are players that have won the Heineken Cup and Magners League last season and it’s a backline that failed to unlock the Scottish defense even once. Could it be plausible that Kidney has kept all his cards close to his chest on purpose. Is this the big plan to catch Australia unawares?

Besides the opening 20 minutes against France in Dublin, Ireland have hardly produced one decent backline move. They have scored 3 tries in 4 games, two of those coming when the French had all but given up. Jonny Sexton is the only Irish back to get a try in four games. As far as I can see there can only be 2 explanations for this, either Alan Gaffney (backs coach) actually does not have any kind of game-plan, or, the players have been deliberately told not to give anything away.

We are all fully aware what Genia, Cooper, Ioane, Beale and O’Connor can do after their Tri-Nations series victory, But what do Australia know about us if they review our last four games? They have no idea what the starting half-backs will  be, they won’t be sure of which centers will start against them. They will surely be expecting an easy ride.

Leinster were second highest try scorers in the Magners League last season with Munster and Ulster at joint fifth. You don’t forget how to score try’s in the space of a few weeks. Of our best centers, O’Driscoll has been wrapped in cotton wool and D’Arcy (top performer in the last Six Nations) is playing so quietly he looks as if he has been sedated before games. Could Gaffney and Kidney have planned this?

Ireland are going into this World Cup as write-off’s, completely under the radar. They will field a second string team against USA and should beat them, but is it possible that they could come out all guns blazing against the Aussies a week later and perhaps create a huge upset? Of course I’d love if this were true, guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Am I delirious/dreaming? Leave a comment!




9 responses

29 08 2011

I thought (hoped) the same thing on Saturday. I hope you’re right – otherwise we are in for some seriously grim viewing in September!!

29 08 2011
Ian Dornan

I was beginning to think exactly the same thing myself. There’s no way that that amount of talent can’t be scoring tries.

Here’s hoping it is all part of the plan otherwise we’re fairly fecked!

29 08 2011

Wouldn’t explain getting thumped off breakdowns/line out meltdown.

I also had similar thoughts/hopes in 2007 which turned out to be delusional.

Hoping that the breakdown issues v England were caused by nerves and that Kidney’s established ability to set teams up to win tournaments will stand to us…but the head says we are in deep dodo.

29 08 2011
Ciaran Kelly

I’m going with you CB, We’ve gone from one extreme ending in HCup victory to 8th in the world. Our scrum and lineout has improved hugely and looks up there with the rest.

Are we really carrying all these knocks and a new one for me – Stinger , really come on, it’s only missing an r !!!

And Heaslip goes out with a headache, if it’s anything else he would be out for 6 weeks !!

Our back combinations have puzzled even the best pundits, bloggers and social media commentators. So much so our Captaincy in BOD came under the firing line !!

Underdogs I like, but has Kidney taken it too far ?? My head says maybe, the heart says exactly to plan. Australia will be cautiously nervously confused, yet will focus on what we did to England in 6N this year , nothing past that.

Just remembered even the Tullow Tank is sidelined, an incident to knee not seen by anyone !!

Jones n Wally were the only part of plan not designed to confuse everyone pre RWC, or then again maybe they could still turn up and play !!! Ha ha

And our campaign starts on 911, yes I believe in the master plan of conspiracy and mind games !!

Ireland 4 Webb Ellis

29 08 2011

You could be onto to something. I think Kidney took these four matches wanting to look at different combintations, and was prepared to give the players enough time to prove themselves, even if it meant losing the matches. I think he was looking for someone to put their hand up as back up in midfield, as either D’Arcy or O’Driscoll or both, always seem to be injured. Don’t know if anyone did though, McFadden would be my best of the rest. We can beat Australia, but they don’t think so at the moment so…maybe there is a plan there.

29 08 2011
Tom Hackett

It’s difficult to imagine that a team wouldn’t use warm up games to execute calls and plays.

A team can practice calls and combinations forever in training, the only real way of knowing if they’re working, is on the playing field.

A team needs confidence, and this confidence is drawn from the knowledge that what you’re doing is working and winning you games. Thus far, we haven’t seen that.

For the moment, let’s hope DK is playing the ultimate mind game and we play a stormer in the RWC.

29 08 2011

This would be great if true, but sadly I don’t think it is! With everyone vying for a starting berth and wanting to play their way into the starting team, you can’t ask them to play below par in the only chance they get. Unfortunately for irelabd, I fear all the blame for the backline lies with the coaching staff, particularly Gaffney.

Gaffney is past it, all his ideas are outdated. For evidence on this, just look at leinsters backline improvement since he left, same players, but a more inventive backs coach.

Gaffney’s backline moves involve 2 strategies; the wraparound and wingers looking for crash ball off the 10. Unfortunately this leaves Ireland shuffling the ball across field and running out of space as opposed to creating any.

Our only hope, replace the coaches. Gaffney retires after the world cup, sadly too late, so were stuck. As a result, I feel Kidney has elected to play the territory game. Kick the corners, defend for 80 and hopefully kick enough points to win. This dull method worked for both England and South Africa 4 years ago. Unfortunately this methods poses two problems for Ireland. The first being, the game has moved on, S.A. still employ this method and have been blitzed by NZ and Oz as a result. What this proves is a high tempo game will kill off this defence approad. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Ireland simply aren’t physical enough to play this game at the top level. The bigger side will pummel us. I think Kidney knows this, but accepts it. He’s simply happy with losing to Oz, scrapping by Italy and then losing to S.A. in the quarters. A good result, as we got out of the group. And who knows, we might get lucky. Wales might beat S.A. which will mean we’ll play Wales in the quarters, our territory game could compete against Wales, we sneak a win and then lose to New Zealand in the semi, a better than expected result.

Sadly, I feel we’re better than this, and with the players at our disposal we could easily compete at a high tempo game, see England game in 6N. Leinsters off loading game is ingrained in over half the team, and given some recents back play we could easily compete.

My biggest worry, we’ll go for the Oz game, lose and lose a few players through injury. Italy will only have eyes for the game against us, they’ll come out gunning for us. Our tight game will mean the game will be close and they’ll beat us 15-12 in a dower game and once again we’ll go out in the group stages.

29 08 2011

I pray your right (would be the greatest thing since Guinness!) I fear your not though but as a Connacht fan eternal optimism is my speciality so C’mon!!!

30 08 2011

Small fault in your logic – Gaffney ran the Leinster backline before last year and it was exactlly the same as the current Irish tactics.

Secondly – for your thesis to be true requires Kidney and Gaffney holding the team back since the Summer of 2010 (if not before)

While I accept ther may be some element of concealment in the Irish tactics I would not expect any major change when the competition starts.

I think the problem stems back to the drastic absence of testing alternatives in last year’s Autumn Internaionals. We are forced into trying new combinations a month before the competition rather than a year before

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