Ireland’s defeat on Saturday at the hands of New Zealand was painful to watch. It was indicative of just how far the side have fallen after reaching their peak in 2018 and being number one team in the world earlier this year. Whilst New Zealand were electric, Ireland cannot use this as an excuse.
It took them 42 minutes to have possession in the All Blacks’ 22, and it was not until the 69th that they were on the scoresheet. The performance was that of a team lacking form, confidence and an understanding of how to win; and New Zealand left them decimated before the half-time whistle.
Speaking post-match, outgoing coach Joe Schmidt struck a despondent figure unwilling to pin blame on his players or his tactics:
“I don’t have an excuse or a reason for it. You can’t afford to give the All Blacks points. It was a bit flat, on the back of having a few niggles. We were not sure of the team until Thursday. I thought we needed to get off to a good start and if we didn’t we would be a bit vulnerable.”
Ireland, however, must not panic at Saturday’s result. After England crashed out as hosts of the 2015 World Cup in the group stages they were facing a similar predicament: embarrassed on the world stage and looking a shadow of their former self. England’s response was to introduce a new coach in Eddie Jones to instil a fresh philosophy and style of play. On the back of this, England went on a record-equalling 18-match winning run, and now look the only team standing in the way of New Zealand and a third consecutive Web Ellis trophy.
With Joe Schmidt leaving and Ireland’s captain and third most capped player Rory Best retiring, Andy Farrell’s Ireland should seem in perfect position to do the same thing. However, whilst England’s 2015 World Cup squad was relatively young – fourteen of the players were 25 or under – most of Ireland’s key players in this World Cup were in their 30s.
This has inspired Alan Quinlan to call on Andy Farrell to bring young players in if there is to be a new era of Irish rugby.
Speaking to OTB AM on Monday, the former Ireland flanker commented,
“Our age profile is too high in this team. So I think David Nucifora and Andy Farrell have got to find young players now and promote them from the u20s and get them in there.
“Joe [Schmidt] did that. In 2018 he brought in Larmour, Porter, Leavy and James Ryan. James Ryan was brought straight into the team. He never played for Leinster. So he cannot be accused of not trying to bring young guys in,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan is right, Ireland need fresh blood and youth to engender a new era and bounce back for the 2023 World Cup in France.