Scrappy Ireland lack leadership and imagination against Georgia

Scrappy Ireland lack leadership and imagination against Georgia

Shane Daly of Ireland during the Autumn Nations Cup match between Ireland and Georgia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SCRAPPY, uninventive and a big, big lack of leadership.

This game was never going to be about the result, that was a given long before it ever started. 

The margin of victory was always going to be noteworthy, but the only two entities that Ireland were going to be judged on were one, their level of proficiency in how they executed their plays and two the level of ruthlessness in which they went about disposing of a side who ply their trade at many levels below where Ireland exist.

Unfortunately, they failed on both counts and at times they actually looked as if they were afraid of the physicality that their visitors brought with them to the party.

Up front Ireland were bullied in the scrum and every time they attempted to maul from a line-out, they were either splintered straight through their core or thrown into reverse gear by a side who’s players were prepared to put their bodies on the line.

Two weeks ago, Argentina caught the All Blacks napping and managed to sneak their first ever victory against them. 

Seven days later, the two teams meet again, and New Zealand produce a winning score line of thirty-eight points to nil. 

That’s what you call a ruthless reaction and that’s why they are the most feared side in the world.

In Irelands case, they lose poorly against England and seven days later they produce a performance that I would referrer to as their worst in the last ten years.

Honesty is a trait that is long associated with rugby union and I’ve played with many players who I’d be really happy to cover my back in a time of war however, when I see players celebrating and high fiving each other just because the opposition hooker throws a crooked ball in the line-out, I really have to question what the Irish players are viewing as success?

Beka Saginadze of Georgia wins possession in the lineout against Peter O'Mahony of Ireland during the Autumn Nations Cup match between Ireland and Georgia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Beka Saginadze of Georgia wins possession in the lineout against Peter O'Mahony of Ireland during the Autumn Nations Cup match between Ireland and Georgia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The other facet of play that leaves me scratching my head with confusion is the amount of times Ireland opted to kick the ball whilst attacking in the oppositions twenty-two.

In rugby the most important thing is to win possession of the ball and the second is to hold onto it until you score, or your opponent’s infringe, but that’s not how Ireland seem to see it.

On at least three occasions Ireland had successfully won ownership of the ball whilst deep inside their opponents twenty-two and what do they do? Kick it away!

Jacob Stockdale burst onto the Irish scene back in 2017 and hit the ground running with a flurry of tries. Back then he was viewed as a winger, but lately he has appeared on the field with the number fifteen on his back. 

This is a positional change that is not working out for him or the players he is playing with.

As a full back you are afforded way more freedom than a winger to roam the field and pop up when try scoring attacking opportunities present. 

On two occasions during yesterdays game the Ulster man opted to put boot to ball whit the try line within sniffing distance. 

He may not have scored himself, but if he held possession and recycled the ball Ireland could easily have added to the measly two try’s they amassed in this game.

C.J Stander is another player who really needs to have a long hard look at how he is playing.

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale with Demur Tapladze and Akaki Tabutsadze of Georgia
Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale with Demur Tapladze and Akaki Tabutsadze of Georgia

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, his bravery and effectiveness as a ball carrier is unquestionable but that’s where his contribution ends.

Every time the South African born player gets the ball in his hands, it is head down, close the eyes and smash straight into anyone who is wearing a different jersey. 

He is as predictable as night following day and if this is what Andy Farrell is looking for can I suggest he trawl the gyms of Ireland where he will find much bigger and stronger runners than Stander.

I’d love to have heard what was said in the moments after this game by Ireland's captain James Ryan, because on the field he was completely undistinguished as a captain and more importantly as a leader.

Ryan who has been lauded as an Irish captain for many years now needs to understand that captaining any side begins on the pitch and if you cant influence your players by standing up as a player when its needed most, your tenure with the captain’s arm band won’t last that long.

If Ryan wants examples of great Irish captains who stood front and centre when the shite was hitting the fan, can I suggest he speaks with Keith Wood, Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell or even Johnny Sexton, but please don’t just do nothing again and have yourself embarrassed by getting substituted with twenty minutes remaining on the clock.

Of the Irish players who did ok on the day, I think Billy Byrnes looked good and seemed to ask questions of the Georgian defensive line when he got reasonably quick ball. 

Stuart McCloskey offered an alternative in Irelands mid-field but we really need Gary Ringrose back as soon as possible.

Up front Iain Henderson made some telling charges and his line-out work was very effective. 

Tadgh Beirne also had a solid outing but he is not a better number six than Peter O’Mahony who is looking as sharp as he was at his very best.

I would like to think that Andy Farrell is no fool when it comes to interpreting the bluffers from the workers and I would also like to think that the Irish side that represents Ireland for next week’s semi-final against Scotland will be made up of players who are willing to fight for every scrap of ball and not go around in their pink boots high fiving each other because their bicips or latest tattoo are looking good.

The time for a bit of honesty is well over due.

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