So yet again it’s a quarter final exit for Ireland at another Rugby World Cup. But this exit seems different to many others because Ireland were in this game for 80 + minutes. A 28-24 loss to New Zealand is a familiar tale of the Irish tape at World Cup time. Unfortunately on this occasion Ireland were left counter punching and trying to find a way to turn around an early 13-0 NZ lead.
As I have said so many times here and on a few podcasts you can’t give a team like New Zealand a head start and then expect to keep counter punching and find a way past them. This time though Ireland did that three times and found scores that included a penalty try.
We were found wanting a scrum time and maybe Farrell should have called for Dave Kilcoyne earlier than 10 minutes from the end. Alas this didn’t happen and it might just have countered the impact of the replacement New Zealand replacement front row.
The past two years in particular under Andy Farrell and Co promised some much and a Grand Slam last March also suggested that lessons of previous tale offs in the months leading to World Cup time had been learned from.
Yet again though, it’s a story of If, But, Maybe and Could Have, Should Have, Would Have. This review will be as though if not harder than what went before.
Ireland worked a position late on and went to the corner took the line out and went over only for Jordie Barrett to use his 6”4 frame to get under Ronan Kelleher to deny Ireland a famous winning try.
This New Zealand side does not have the aura of other teams that had Carter, Mc Caw etc but what it does have is players with the right strong skill set to execute the game plan that is set out by whoever may be in charge at that point.
The impact of the assistant coaches, Joe Schmidt and Jason Ryan can be easily seen. Both men were assistants previously with Schmidt of course coaching up here with Leinster and Ireland and Jason Ryan was assistant to incoming New Zealand coach Scott Robertson at the Crusaders.
It will certainly be an interesting one to look to see with both men be kept on in the short term once New Zealand’s time in France ends whether that is on Friday on the following weekend.
Back to Ireland, Saturday of course marked the end of Jonathan Sexton’s time as a professional rugby player. He played 118 times for Ireland, scoring over 1,000 Test points.
He burst onto the scene here with Leinster in late 2009. Having appeared during the Celtic League campaign that year it was his appearance against Munster in Croke Park that brought him really to people’s attention. His drive to succeed and win has to be mentioned and say it was unrivalled. Many Irish players tried to drive standards but only him and Roy Keane truly made that happen.
Of course people will look at his record at RWC’s and say not he never did it on that stage but that is only part of his story as he drove them to victory last March to win a Grand Slam, kicked them to win a crucial win against France in 2018 in Paris with “Le drop”.
So looking at his career on the whole it’s been very special and he will be recognised as one man who drove Ireland to huge heights maybe not on the RWC stage but his impact on the game in Ireland will be long lasting I have no doubt.
He will bow out now and fade into civilian life with ease and enjoy family life.
A word too for Keith Earls who it was quietly announced would also be stepping away from the International game after 101 caps and 36 tries. He is loved by all who follow the game in this country and will be missed by those who support Munster aswell as the Irish supporters if he confirms his retirement from the club game also.
These two along with I suspect a few more will make statements about there long term futures as one or two will have contract renewals to discuss in the coming months. We can leave that for another time.
Thank you to both Keith and Jonathan for their respective contributions in green. I was there the night Keith made his international debut in Limerick in November 2008. He scored after 2 minutes and never looked back….
So that elusive first semi-final appearance will have to wait until Australia in 2027… Time now to take stock of the last few weeks and reset the clock for 2024 and beyond.
Enjoy the rest of the RWC where England will carry the hopes of the northern hemisphere after Ireland, France and Wales were beaten this past weekend….