Flat Footed Irish
13th March 2005 By Munster Rugby
After the autumn internationals we heard about the benefits of the 10 week pre-season training that the international squad members went through. The idea was to spare the players the rigours (God almighty) of the Celtic League and have them in top shape for those autumn games and obviously the Six Nations.
So did it work?
Well I don t think so. The lacklustre performance in the opening game against Italy was explained away by Irish management as, opening game rustiness ; Italy being formidable opponents (the Wooden Spoon is already being wrapped and addressed to them); blah blah.
The win over, perhaps the worst Scottish team in history, only served to paper over the cracks and the warning signs that were against the English were ignored by Eddie O Sullivan.
What cracks am I talking about?
This Irish side looked flat against Italy and England and out on its feet against France. The players haven t been flogged by their provinces who haven t seen them in weeks – so they must be getting flogged in national camp.
Against Italy O Sullivan waited until the 63rd minute before he made the first substitution, Horan for Corrigan. O Callaghan, Sheahan and Miller came on in injury time.
Against the Scots with the game won and just nine minutes of the second half played, he still waited until the 73rd minute to give players a breather and others valuable game time. Sheahan and Horan came on in the 32nd minute of the second half, O Callaghan, Easterby, Duffy and Easterby in the 36th minute.
In the England game the only substitution saw Horan brought on in the 29th minute of the second half and against France, Horan came on with five minutes of normal time remaining, Eric Miller, moments later.
Those of us at the game and the millions watching could see Irish players sucking diesel, but there was no attempt to freshen up the side. Anthony Foley is a superb player who never gives less than 110% but he was struggling and O Sullivan did him a disservice by leaving him there to struggle.
When de Villers was sent on was it right to leave Reggie Corrigan there to take on a fresh player, a top class formidable one at that. Was that not the time to send on Horan? And when Lamboley made his appearance at the start of the final quarter and then Pape, would it not have been the time to combat the arrival of fresh legs with our own, Miller and maybe O Callaghan.
By my reckoning in the four games to date, O Sullivan has given Marcus Horan about 40 minutes of rugby; Frankie Sheahan about 10 minutes and Donncha O Callaghan has played a whopping 8 minutes.
If he doesn t have any faith in numbers 16-22 then he shouldn t pick them.
John Blake London.