herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Pressure is now on Kidney to shake the cobwebs out of listless Ireland

THERE were positives for Ireland against the USA but not in the areas that will greatly affect the outcome of next week’s game against the Aussies.

The quality of Ireland’s continuity and handling remains a concern. Oddly enough, I do think the handling will come good against Australia.

And while Ireland have been lacking confidence of late, they have usually performed well against the top sides when the pressure is off them.

Many will say the game against the USA was a bit of a red herring. But I think a win will be very important for the team’s psyche.

The fact that Dunedin now has a roof covering the ground will make Ireland’s final game against Italy a little less daunting weather-wise, especially if Ireland’s progression to the quarter-finals hinges on the outcome of that match.

The biggest worry at the moment is whether we are confident and clinical enough to take those one or two chances that will surely come our way at Eden Park on Saturday.

The US were stubborn opponents but the scoreline would not have read well for those who are willing Ireland’s progression beyond the quarter-final stage.

Ireland have not played to their potential for at least 18 months and that lack of form is beginning to frustrate the players, not least the captain, whose own game could be beginning to be affected by his team’s lack of progress.

We seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of our approach to matches.

Patient

On a wet pitch, with a powerful start by the forwards in the set piece, it should have been clear where Ireland needed to take on their opponents.

But despite some patient build-up which led to a first-half try, we over-complicated our approach instead of trying to over-power the USA up front.

If a route-one tactic had been undertaken we may have built a comfortable scoreline, which would have empowered the players to play the more open game with more confidence where we could have tried a few things ahead of next Saturday.

The fact that we did not put ourselves 20 or 30 points ahead meant that we could not relax into the game, yet we endeavoured to force the running game and coughed up possession in conjunction with some aimless kicking and unforced errors.

The Americans’ ability to shut down the space in the midfield, allied with the handling mistakes, made it a tougher day at the office than it should have been.

Many of the individual displays were under-par, which means that the team is not functioning.

Mistakes

You can go on and on about improving in certain areas but if there are issues surrounding the players’ ability to focus on bringing out their own good individual performances, then there are many questions that need to be answered, some of which need to be resolved off the training pitch.

Conor Murray did quite well despite a few mistakes.

It would be a little early to throw him in against Australia, but his game will get better with time.

Rory Best was a standout player but for next week the reality is that everyone will need to hit top form.

Gordon D’Arcy and Tommy Bowe remain a little off the pace but Stephen Ferris continues to regain form, which will be a big plus down the track.

Ireland are now stuck in a mode that they seem incapable of getting out of.

All the talk of how fellas are relaxing off the pitch and how well things are going at training are distractions that only mask the problems that the players know exist deep down.

Too many good players are not playing well despite being five games into the season.

The pressure is now firmly on coach Declan Kidney to help his team shake off whatever has hindered them for so long.

It’s going to be a long, uphill battle even if we do manage to pull the rabbit out of the hat next Saturday.

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