Category: Archive

O’Sullivan’s job appears in jeopardy after defeat

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“The IRFU shares in the disappointment with the out-turn of this year’s RBS Six Nations Championship from an Irish perspective and will be undertaking a detailed review of our performance. Our objective in this, as always, will be to ensure the Irish rugby team has in place the optimal structures to allow it to perform at the highest international levels into the future.” For his part, O’Sullivan, while reiterating his hunger for the job, said on Saturday night that he and the union would use their customary post-championship sit-down to “discuss the bigger picture and decide then what we’re going forward with”.
An early flurry aside, Ireland were wholly outplayed at Twickenham as their four-game winning streak over their hosts expired with nothing but a limp and a whimper. They looked alarmingly disorganized at times and made a string of atrocious basic errors. Consequently, they ended the Six Nations third from bottom with just the wins over Scotland and Italy to their name, the worst return of O’Sullivan’s time. That time surely can’t last for too much longer.
Human nature being what it is, it was difficult to look at passages of play without informing them with the significance of a week of build-up. And so, when Ireland burst from the blocks all decisive running and no-look offloads, you couldn’t but put it down to a reaction to the bloodless kick-and-yawn of the previous Saturday in Croke Park. When they hit early rucks with ferocity and intent, when they strung together phases right from the off, it started to look for all the world like the odd stirring display the soccer team would put in after their latest stinker had put Steve Staunton’s continued employment under pressure.
But Rob Kearney’s early converted try and a Ronan O’Gara penalty in the seventh minute came to be the sum total of their scoring for the day. England, with new boy-wonder Danny Cipriani looking every inch the superstar you suspect he feels himself to be, tore them apart, running in three tries and never really looking in any trouble.
Afterwards, there was a consensus from the Irish players that the whole squad is suffering from a huge confidence deficit just now. “I think your confidence is built upon performances and results and if you haven’t got those to look back on then it’s very difficult to have that,” said Andrew Trimble. “It takes someone very strong-minded to continue to be confident, to continue to be positive, to want the ball and to back themselves. That’s something I found very difficult. If you haven’t made a line break in a few weeks, it’s very difficult to back yourself and be assured you are as good as you should be.”
Ronan O’Gara was equally downbeat. “We have to believe more in ourselves as players. Confidence is a key ingredient in a sportsman, especially at this level, and I think when you are confident as a team and as players you play instinctively. We were second guessing and doubting each other and you see me dropping a ball 10 yards from the line near the last play of the game. That shouldn’t happen, but it’s probably a result of looking outside me and when a team is full of confidence and flow, the talk is there.”
It was painful to watch at times. Whatever about the future of the head coach, the need for a backs coach has rarely been as stark. Time and again, possession was wasted as they moved with all the planning and imagination of club side. Yes, they were improvising with no O’Driscoll and no D’Arcy but this was about more than the odd missing name. This was a systems failure. Because make no mistake, Ireland had as much of the ball here as they needed but they were just so sloppy with it right across the board with it. Even Paul O’Connell of all people was done by the referee on three separate occasions for holding on in contact after he ran into tackles all on his own. It was that kind of day.
Talk has already move on to the bandying about of names to replace O’Sullivan and maybe the only thing that can possibly save him is that the IRFU missed out on a whole host of names after the World Cup. It’s a very slim hope, though. Because this can’t go on.

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