YOU roll the dice and you take your chances.
When Joe Schmidt agreed to play Italy, England and Wales (twice) in an attempt to get his players up to speed for the World Cup, I can guarantee you he signed the acceptance form with a deep frown.
Finding the correct balance between being under or overcooked going into any competition is a very hard thing to do.
It’s a very fine line to walk and I really hope that Joe’s numbers come up because from what I saw over the last two weekends when the All Blacks clashed with Australia and South Africa with Argentina, Ireland need to implement some serious changes from the Six Nations.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a weekend of watching rugby that had me thanking the gods that I was not out there. I can only imagine where the game will be in 10 years from now.
All four Southern Hemisphere sides’ brand of rugby involves hits that were brutal, especially at the breakdown. The pace was Bolt-like and some of the visionary plays made it seem like the players were telepathic. The entertainment value was immense. However, I do feel there will be a very dear price to pay.
A fourth rugby player has died in France in the space of eight months because of contact-related injuries so time has come for World Rugby to implement a ruthless approach to enforcing the laws.
There was much controversy over last week’s sending off of Kilkenny star Richie Hogan for a high tackle on Cathal Barrett. The ref was 100% correct with his decision.
Ireland will play against an English side that has the firepower to match any team. They have just come off the back of a gruelling two-week training stint and will need to be prepared for the level of intensity that Eddie Jones and his players will bring.
Ireland’s heroics of two years ago when they were crowned Grand Slam champions were very short-lived as England arrived in Dublin last February and blew them away. Ireland’s methodical and all too often systematic style of rugby was ruthlessly exposed.
I think it would be fair to surmise that Schmidt and his very experienced coaching ticket will have realised that there are more ways to attack than Conor Murray kicking the leather off the ball or looking for one-out runners who end up smashing into brick-wall defences.
Unless the Irish playmakers are allowed some amount of leeway in deciding what they do with the ball, Ireland will be lucky to make it out of their pool.
No team, not even the mighty All Blacks, will win this World Cup unless they take risks and I just don’t think Schmidt has it in him to allow that.
Apart from Connacht’s Jack Carty, the best attack-minded out-half in the country, there is no one else who can bring the X-factor. Simon Zebo is considered too much of a maverick.
If Ireland were really serious contenders to win the World Cup, their transformation from a team who plays rugby from a playbook to one seeking gaps and exploiting them with cut-throat accuracy should have started two years ago.
Four warm-up games against your immediate neighbours will not allow enough time to change a six-year period where players were told what to do and where they should do it.
And just for the record, I don’t think Joe is a bad coach. He is just too slow to move away from what has worked for him in the past.
I firmly believe that for us to win a World Cup we would need to at least have reached a semi-final by now and please don’t get hoodwinked by us beating the All Blacks. Do you think for one minute that they really cared about us beating them?
They are judged only once every four years and that is in a World Cup setting. Their standards are slightly higher than the rest of the world.
I’d be happy to leave Twickenham tomorrow with a 10-point loss and no injuries.