Irish rugby’s legacy wreaks havoc ahead of clash with the world’s best
Had Greg McWilliams asked the apocryphal Kerryman to guide him through his first Six Nations campaign, the response would not have surprised anyone with an intimate knowledge of Irish rugby.
We certainly wouldn’t have started from here. Whether anyone outside Irish rugby cares is a moot point.
The difficulty is that events unfolding in England this weekend could further dampen their interest.
Already paralyzed by a legacy that doesn’t come from this coach at all, the aftermath of continued inattentiveness to those passionate about the game here threatens to inflict a grievous wound on a sport’s gradual attempts to heal itself.
Many of the positive omens that came to light on beating an Italian side who somehow still refuse to learn how to kick football could be nullified in one fell swoop this weekend as an English side claim their 22nd win celebrates. Only the bookkeeping will record those present, since the result is certain from the outset.
“It’s one of those things,” says head coach Greg McWilliams.
“You wake up after the game against Italy and realize that you will be missing nine or ten players. But at the same time I have faith in the players I have.
“Initially we were concerned that the AIL finals will be at the end of February and this would be their first launch since.
“It’s a great opportunity for them. And it’s about working on ourselves. Alan MacGinty always told me, ‘Be remembered for the rugby you play, not the results you have’.”
It’s a real shame that Ireland’s watered-down preparation, which would have been heralded well in advance with the departure of the only pros at their disposal to face the English pros, could have been aided if more attention had been paid to the details would be how Ireland’s remaining amateurs could possibly be rendered the optimum support.
Instead, with the league coming to an end almost two months ago, the amateur players who have now been drafted and who are expected to strive for the impossible mental and physical levels of an English side that is superior in the world are hopelessly exposed.
Ireland’s professional men would never face a similar situation, so it seems inscrutable that female amateurs should face professional players in white-hot championship bouts.
The clash with the sevens was always inevitable, and while some might argue for perhaps maintaining a discreet distance from the 15v15 format, the lack of depth of play undermines that well-intentioned argument. Still, a few could have been picked against a similarly conditioned and beatable Italian side in a reassuring home environment.
A much more relevant observation, which would be readily applicable had the IRFU and its nabobs honored the concerns of those they are meant to serve, might have allowed the amateurs pressed for emergency action this weekend, barring proper game preparation, to hit -out against the Barnhall U-20 behind closed doors last weekend.
McWilliams, who must maintain the patience of a diplomat and an upbeat, enterprising coaching voice, certainly would not have condoned such a dire prospect and must not do so in 2023.
The belated provision of a two-day summer testing tour, which he strongly advocated following his appointment, offers some soothing balm in attempts to speed up the transition of a side still devastated by last year’s World Cup qualifying flop.
“I haven’t spoken about that yet,” McWilliams said when pressed on the issue by authorities Irish Independent. “The most important thing was to come out on top in this year’s Six Nations and always have a plan for that game against England. It was a big deal to get a summer tour and thank goodness they managed to give us one.
“That’s what’s important. We will learn a lot about this group of players. Everyone knows that England are a big challenge.
“We need to plan those two games and then the exciting summer to see the players more often.
“And then the 15 and 7 plans will come out and we’ll have a clearer idea and we can tell everyone openly what’s happening.”
Until then, expect more growing pains. Sunday could hurt more than any other.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/irish-rugbys-legacy-issues-create-chaos-ahead-of-clash-against-worlds-best-41568419.html Irish rugby’s legacy wreaks havoc ahead of clash with the world’s best