One of my favorite quotes comes from legendary basketball coach John Wooden: “It’s the little details that make the difference. Small things make a big difference.”
hat has kept me busy this week and given the rebuilding phase Ireland is in, I have long believed that this Six Nations must be about performance and not results. No matter what happened against Wales last week, it was always just a first step towards a better place.
There were highlights in that game, but then there was also naivety and inexperience with small details that eventually caught up with Ireland. The Welsh team were bigger and stronger but as Ireland stuck to the blueprint and moved them we took advantage of gaps, made it across the payline and scored tries. When we played fast, with drive and determination, we shone.
But there were also issues, things that they tried to fix in the short time they had before today’s game. Discipline is one. Ireland had 14 penalties against Wales and that to me is a sign of the power of full-time contracts. Wales knew exactly when to slow the ball, when to move it and that’s where all the extra contact time helps – little things picked up in review sessions that can be heavily practiced in training. Irish players would have returned to work Monday morning and not returned to camp until Wednesday afternoon.
Think of the details that could have been covered in those two and a half days before taking on the third-placed team in the world.
There were concerns over last weekend’s scrum, which ran well enough in the first half with Linda Djougang on loose, Neve Jones hooking and Katie O’Dwyer on tighthead. But against big packs they need to be cuter and close the gaps so they don’t get those big, crunchy hits that put you on your backfoot, especially against heavier packs.
This weekend we face a more powerful beast – the French. I would like them to be smarter, close the gap, work on our angles and give the referees good pictures. If it’s possible to disrupt the French ball that’s a bonus, but it’s about being disciplined and not giving away penalties. It’s the little things that destroy momentum, sacrifice territory and most importantly, possession.
The lineout was abright light last week as it offered a clean ball and a great attacking platform. Ireland had done their homework and identified this Wales mirror so they went to a spread. They knew Wales would have identified Nichola Fryday as our main jumper and that they hadn’t seen many videos of Sam Monaghan so they did a great job dumping forward and going backwards and Sam was in the on that Position Get up really fast and win a clean ball. It’s these fine details that move the larger chess pieces and create and utilize space. We need more of these to outwit the French.
If the alley works well on attack and we get penalties, I would kick after touch instead of trying to go toe-to-toe with a much larger pack. France made two changes in the front row this week so it will be difficult to verify. They were strong against Italy and will probably have more chances in the crowd, but they struggled to get a clean ball from the pass.
The times Italy gave France problems was when they played at high tempo, with offloads, great running lines and we saw that in Ireland last week too. If we can do that while keeping the ball, we’ll put in a decent performance. But discipline is the key.
France were sloppy last week but when they turned it on, by god they were good. Her offloads, wins, ability to keep the ball alive, change attack point and score tries is fabulous.
For amateurs, playing pros can sometimes make you a little jealous. You wish you had this time, this contract, to facilitate your improvement to reach that elite level. With so much effort, you almost want to say to your opponents: If I had what you had, I would be better. But those thoughts aren’t for game day. As a player, this is where you want to be when you’re up against France, New Zealand, Canada, England – the best in the world – and taking your chance to bring them to their knees or take a penalty against them in the scrum .
Weeks like this make me jealous that I’m not involved anymore. I played at the Stade Ernest Wallon and it’s a fabulous venue. You feel this pressure, this sound – an energy that gave me goosebumps. I hope the girls will benefit from this.
It’s all a process and they have to go out there and try not to make as many mistakes as they did last week, but also not be afraid to make those mistakes. If you do, you can go home with lessons for continued growth.
This is reminiscent of another Wooden gem to keep an eye on throughout this campaign: “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/ireland-must-be-fast-but-not-too-furious-to-rattle-french-cage-41512831.html Ireland need to be quick but not too furious to shake the French cage