Tuesday 25 October 2016

Horgan: We have issues

Ireland don't command respect of big boys

Sky Sports analyst and former Ireland and Leinster player Shane Horgan
Sky Sports analyst and former Ireland and Leinster player Shane Horgan

Former Ireland wing Shane Horgan has questioned Ireland's "credibility" at the World Cup.

The way the Irish succumbed to Argentina to become the fall guys for the sixth time at the quarter-final stage shines an even brighter spotlight on their World Cup pedigree as failures.

"It's a big thing, it's a credibility thing as well for everyone involved in Irish Rugby," he said.

"I've been involved for years as well and never managed to do it myself.

"We went to a couple of World Cups, never went past the quarter-final stage.

"I think until we get beyond that, until we prove we can do that, we are always going to be, not quite a second-tier nation, but not with the big boys of the southern hemisphere."

Ireland's greatest ever victory in the World Cup remains the dispatch of Australia in 2011.

What happened next? They were well-beaten by Wales because they couldn't maintain the same level of physical intensity.

Four years on, a newly sculpted France were out-muscled by a super-sonic Irish performance that came at a cost to headline casualties. What happened next? They were shell-shocked by a virtuoso Argentina start which owed everything to making the gain line and taking their chances out wide.

The historical facts support the supposition that Ireland have never been able to put back-to-back matches that truly mattered together at any of the World Cups.

No Tradition

"We've no tradition of making the semi-finals. We've never done it before," said Horgan.

Despite this, Argentina have been able to drive-test their new approach around the 'Formula 1' environment that is the Rugby Championship for the last four years.

They have taken their medicine, found a better way to operate and com back stronger for the experience.

"I think you saw what Argentina have been producing themselves over the last couple of months," pushed Horgan.

"Physically, they looked bigger than Ireland; they looked stronger. They dominated us in that opening 20 minutes.

"They were chests-out, slapping each other on the back, walking tall. It looked like Ireland were completely out of the game, looked like it could be an embarrassing scoreline."

The 20 minutes either side of half-time witnessed a sea change in the game as Ireland went strongly about their business, Luke Fitzgerald giving them hope and Jordi Murphy further evidence that something special was possible.

"Somehow they came back into it in the second-half which showed great heart and great courage."

It was then Horgan ranked Jonathan Sexton's loss as the greatest of the five men that were not able to lend their weight to the argument because he would have been in the position to call the shots on how best for Ireland to move forward.

"There was a period there in the middle of the second-half when we were just three points (23-20) down.

"There was just an opportunity to take the correct option.

"Sometimes it was the pass. Sometimes it was the kick.

"Unfortunately, (Ian) Madigan hasn't been in those situations too many times before for Ireland as a starting ten.

"Certainly nothing like the pressure of a World Cup quarter-final and they weren't the right options taken.

"If Sexton had have been there, we may have squeezed Argentina, may have drawn level, maybe even went three ahead. There's a huge amount of pressure that would have been turned back on to Argentina."

This is dealing in the unrecoverable vision of hindsight.

Sexton is not exactly a stranger to missed kicks.

There have been one or two, none greater than the one against the All Blacks in November 2013.


Okay, Madigan's instinct has always been to run or pass first and kick second or third.

The Leinster utility back has struggled to rein in his natural inclination for all-out attack, those long, fired out passes always flirting with the pick up of an interception.

There was also that tantalising ball out on the full that turned attack into defence.

"We didn't get our kicking game right," continued Horgan

"We played a little too deep and allowed Argentina to get that crucial score in the corner by (Joaquin) Tuculet.

"It was a phenomenal try and at that stage it was all over."

The dream has died for another four years.


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