As we sit here on a Monday morning, gutted and confused, I think it is time to kill some myths that have popped up since the match against a monster Japanese side.
Firstly, I don’t think any supporter (more on fans below) is arguing the result. Japan played at their 15% extra as we expected. Japan kept that emotional and physical adrenaline going for 80 minutes; they looked like they could have played on for another 4 hours without losing any edge. They have to be saluted for the shift they put in, beyond impressive and sometimes in sport you just have to bow your head to the better team on the day.
So let’s roll through a few myths and clear the decks before we go into the Russia game on Thursday morning.
Firstly, Ireland played badly:
That is not true, if you look at any of the important stats. Lineouts (2 lost of 11) 1 was a bad throw and 1 was bad timing on the lift, 1 scrum loss of 7 (that 1 loss galvanised the home side massively), 18 tackles missed(a bit high but nothing to see red over), Japan missed 14. 9 Penalties conceded to Japans 6. Ireland had 8 players in the double figures for the game and 9 players in double figures for tackles made. The media built up Japan, not the players. If you think Ireland played badly, then you listened to the wrong people. Ireland played average / maybe a tiny bit above average. But it was a far distance from bad play.
I had friends in the stadium on the day, when they arrived they told me that it was warm but nothing to worry about. When the teams arrived out for their warm-ups I got a text saying we are in trouble. The humidity spiked massively up to 75%. That mixed with Japan keeping the ball in play for nearly 15 minutes more than any other team, this wore on Ireland and Japan took advantage of it.
Secondly, Ireland can’t play without Sexton:
I would suggest no team can play without their first selection 10. Any team who loses their decision maker will struggle. If you look at the backups, Carberry is a class player but was coming into this game off an injury and for him to be expected to turn around a game when he is still finding his feet is a tall order, when Joey is fit he can do that. Carty played really well for 27 minutes. Some really intelligent play off his boot shows that he can play on the big stage. But when the team is sapped of energy you could have any 10 on the pitch, they wouldn’t be able to do much.
Thirdly, Ireland is out of the RWC:
Another piece of nonsense floating around is that Ireland are now broken mentally and will struggle for the rest of the tournament. We have to remember that teams lose in sport; it is part of every game at every level. If you play sport and fall apart after a loss, then I think you need to look at yourself. The team will look at themselves. I have spoken to players in camp and they are relishing the challenge of coming back, it has been a serious bishop Brennan style kick up the arse and they want to put it right. The good thing about the quick turnaround is that they have the time to do that now. Watch a big score against Russia.
To finish off. We really need to look at our commentary of the game. None of us are happy about the result. Nobody is more gutted than the lads who put on the jersey on Saturday. Some of the chatter online has been beyond embarrassing. Real fan stuff, real emotional and snap judgment stuff. I really thought we were a bit more grown up about it. For those who are going overboard post game, it shows you just listen to various media types and take their opinions as your own under the assumption that they are not working you. I am talking about Luke Fitzgerald and Ewan McKenna as examples. I have offered both a live and uncensored mic to express their views while being open o questioning and both has not answered. That Irish team has farmers playing right beside college students, kids and experienced players. It is a good selection of life from around Ireland. Ewan was wetting himself at the loss, but the lad hasn’t been near a rugby club in a hundred years, he has no idea of the community involved, just looks at what he wants to see. A lot agree with him based on radio appearances etc., that is the issue.
Learn about the game, make up your own mind and remember, in the words of Nigel Owens ‘this isn’t soccer’