An average (and a lucky one) performance from Ireland, and some are talking of a team that may have peaked a season or two too early. Fear of God has some telling stats from the match. ‘Territory: Ireland 41% Namibia 59%‘. And, more tellingly: ‘Errors: Ireland 18 Namibia 8‘. Richard Hookham only rates O’Driscoll, Trimble, Horan, Easterby, Stringer and Leamy above 5. Biggest disappointments: Paul O’Connell’s lack of authority and a no show from David Wallace. Ronan O’Gara also had one his unconscionably bad days. The usually superlative Hickie looked like he was contemplating his early pension, and the whole back line looked confused and out of sorts. Gerry Thornley quotes Eddie O’Sullivan:
“It was pretty much like watching a horror movie at times. The performance was very, very poor. I expected us to be a little bit edgy in the first 20 minutes but we actually got a few scores on the board and got worse as the game wore on. We made an awful lot of errors and overall it was a very very disappointing performance,” said O’Sullivan, who admitted he struggled to remember a worse one: “If we play like that against Georgia, we won’t get a result.”
“It was a really awful display,” conceded Brian O’Driscoll, who made light of the strap on his shoulder holding in a nerve injury that it is hoped will clear up this morning. “It started badly, and it got worse as the game wore on. No excuses. It’s like a defeated dressing-room. A massive, massive disappointment and a huge, huge amount to improve on.”
And the pessimists are out in force:
Ireland’s PR team will spin furiously, but there is nowhere to hide. It is, as the foreign legion put it, march or die. This team must put up or shut up. Sadly, it is beyond them.
An Spailpín Fánach may have the last and most appropriate word:
Namibia went into that game last night as lambs to the slaughter; instead of offering their necks, they claimed the cleaver and went for the butcher. Good for them – honour and glory have been legislated more or less out of the modern game of rugby, but Namibia showed that maybe the ancient virtues still have some role in William Webb Ellis’ game.
And on that strident Corinthian note, perhaps it’s time to resort to the words of Gladstone:
teamman ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes”
The question is, have we got the time to learn from our early mistakes. Right now, even the chance to play an ominous All Black team would be a fine thing.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty