THE sight of a single swallow does not make a summer.
However, in terms of shifting the mental expectancies of a national governing body and setting a precedent where failure is deemed as unacceptable by its players, overpowering 15 Kiwi All Blacks on two consecutive occasions is as important to Irish rugby as is all our world leaders coming together and agreeing to solve climate change.
What happened last week in Dublin was a seismic occurrence but the real work starts now and the level of performance that these Irish players and coaches have set is going to be incredibly hard to maintain and even tougher to improve upon.
Ok, let's call a spade a spade, Ireland’s magnificent win against New Zealand last Saturday might be deemed as an end of season friendly. And despite having defeated them in three out of the last four encounters, we still need to beat this mythical nation in a crunch World Cup tie and also on their home patch in order to fully reshape the history books. At least the first step on the ladder has been successfully ascended.
For as long as I’ve been playing and watching rugby in this country, I’ve always felt that winning a World Cup was beyond our limited resources, however, with the onset of the professional game and the acceptancy of transcontinental players wearing our national colours, my beliefs have altered.
I may not like the thought of overseas players taking the place of our indigenous lads, however, the rules are the rules and if we didn’t have the power of Bundee Aki, the determination of James Lowe and the rapidness that Jamison Gibson-Park brought to the distribution of the ball from the breakdown, I don’t think we would have won on Saturday.
I would like to think I am wrong on this occasion, but there were pivotal moments in the game where these three New Zealand-born players had central roles to play and they did so with supreme efficiency.
If, and I say if with a large amount of cautiousness, we can maintain and more importantly keep enriching the depth of our squad, then the possibility of watching an Irish captain step forward to accept the William Webb Ellis trophy is something I am becoming more and more comfortable with.
We seem to be masters of peaking at the completely wrong time in the build-up to almost every World Cup campaign and we end up looking rather sheepish with our tails lodged firmly between our legs when the dust is settled and the IRFU have sacked the coach.
We then spend 10s of thousands of euros hiring some guru who never played the game to investigate and prepare an independent review of where it all went wrong and if this isn’t bad enough, we end up making the same mistake over and over again.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a sign of insanity.
I guess this might explain a lot of the decisions that the IRFU have made over the decades, but for now all the correct people seem to be in place and, more importantly, the processes they are using to achieve their goals are working.
The best idiom I can use, to sum up last week’s endeavours by the players is, relentless drudgery and this is a moral belief that must be tattooed, etched, or injected into each and every player who is selected to play for Ireland between now and the final whistle of the 2023 World Cup final in France.
As already stated, the bar has now been set at a very high level and I cannot overemphasise enough the importance of maintaining this level of competency going forward. Any drop in intensity or resilience will see us taking one step forward and two back.
The next time Ireland will get the opportunity to further hone their game plan after Sunday’s third and final test in this year’s Autumn Nations Series will be in the Six Nations against Wales on February 5 and it would be a crying shame if Farrell and co don’t sign off on Sunday with yet another display of domineering brilliance.
Argentina, who have often been a thorn in Ireland’s back-side are one of the most physical sides in world rugby and I can tell you now that every point Ireland put on the scoreboard they will have worked bloody hard to have put it there.
I don’t know what it is about these South American specimens, but from one to 23 they are all massive and their level of aggression seems to be set much higher than everyone else’s.
Discipline will play a big part in the outcome on Sunday and no matter what Irish player is tasked with making this series a clean sweep of victories, the most important thing is that they do not revert to the slow and lacklustre style of play that saw us stagger out of the 2019 World Cup with nothing more than a whimper.
The reward for playing rugby the way it was designed to be played is priceless and I would rather come second in a two-horse race than see our halfbacks’ regress to the box-kicking way of gaining territory.
Ireland to win but not by a massive margin.