The Irish exit Europe, but it is not the end of days

I allowed an extra day to let the weekends results settle and to wait for the online backlash to subside a bit before reviewing the Irish exodus from Europe.

Firstly, this is not the end of days like many would have you believe, losses happen in sport, it is all about what happens next after a horrific day at the office for Leinster and an end of season whimper from Ulster.

Starting on Saturday in the Aviva, Saracens arrived ready to give the rugby world the middle finger and long story short, they did just that. Leinster arrived hoping to add more silver to the trophy cabinet and exorcise a demon in Saracens.

Starting with the numbers, you will see that the game was tighter than a hipsters skinny jeans. Leinster ran for 152 more meters at 276, had 63% possession for 66% territory, missing only 3 of the 85 tackles and forcing Saracens into missing 17 of 204. Leinster conceded 15 penalties (8 of which were at scrum time) to Saracens 10 concessions. Leinster had 11 players in double figures for meters run, Saracens had 4. Leinster had no one in double figures for tackles made (probably a first in a decade), Saracens had 10!

Let me repeat that, Leinster had no players in double figures for tackles made, Saracens had 10!

What a stat!

And those tackles where all over the squad! Itoje leading the way with 19 and 3 missed.

The final score was 25-17

There will be people who go into details about game plans being too rigid, for starting squads not being correct for the opposition. But the answer is far more basic, and I think with basic answers, smart people sometimes feel that they are too basic. The answers to difficult problems should always be complicated. In this case, it is not.

Leinster and Ireland have had a problem reaching match intensity from the opening whistle. Rugby is a team based combat sport, and much like any combat sport, if you do not begin with intent, aggression and frightening physicality, then the opponent will see it as weakness and trample you. This is the same for me in Muay Thai, if my opponent senses any hesitation on my part; he will see it as weakness and go for the kill. Rugby is exactly the same. It is not a skill issue; the size issue is overblown by lazy pundits too. If it were a size issue then the All Blacks would be getting bigger instead of smaller.

Leinster are a great team, Saracens (as hard as it is to say) are also a great team. Many cups between them. The difference is the unwavering ability that Saracens have to start their important matches at 98% intensity and scrap. Leinster have a history of allowing teams on to them early (Connacht in the grand final springs to mind). And when you have a skillful and aggressive team knocking on your door, sooner or later they will knock it down.

So in short, do not believe the hype. This isn’t doomsday.

What this is, is insanity. Insanity as defined by Einstein is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That is what Leinster did and what Ireland did in the 6 Nations.

Let’s listen to auld Albert and adjust our mindset

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