Saturday 19 January 2019

Time has come for Ireland side to banish its fear factor

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to love in the world they have been given rather than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it is an opinion." - Anon

IT SEEMS both our rugby team and many of us as a nation of Irish people have been well used to playing things small.

For a country of four million, we have boasted an enormous amount of talent throughout history in so many fields from WB Yeats to U2, countless numbers at the forefront of business and companies worldwide, not to mention the best group of rugby players in a generation.

I have thought a lot about the last weekend and many of the games over the past year. Bearing in mind our country’s history, this perennial inferiority complex has only manifested itself even more in recent years because we are only now daring to risk coming out of our shells from a playing perspective.

For the reason outlined above, and other contributing factors, we have stuttered in this process, not because we are not good enough to play the way we want, but it comes from an inherent fear of achieving more than we think we can. Fear is really an illusion but it has been part and parcel of our sports teams as we have been used to the label of underdogs for decades.

Fear affects everyone but certain teams have been more adept at conquering that fear by using that fear to liberate themselves and their potential.

Playing things small in a rugby context has never done us any favours. In the last ten years we have always endevoured with some success, but now as we try to find our way with a new game, how do you go about explaining the high number of errors in many of our games, many of which seem unforced?

Until this Irish team both individually and collectively shake this psychological burden off their shoulders we will continue to stutter up to and through the World Cup.

Declan Kidney, like all of us, has his strengths and weaknesses, but he cannot play on the pitch for his players so his responsibility is limited, as much as he is accountable at the end of the day to the powers that be if the team does not perform. Those players who play without any fear are in a great position to influence the rest.

That is what’s needed if we are to move on consistently to the next level. The opposition always needs to be respected, but for Ireland from this weekend and beyond all the focus needs to be solely on themselves If such things take precedent than as a team all will be in a better position to get the most from each other.

Ireland need to go out and play their own game on Sunday. They must be themselves and not try to play with an agenda of feeling they have to match the French play for play.

Tactical awareness especially from the likes of Sexton will be key as it’s clear the French defence is not as watertight as in the days of Bernard Laporte, so we will have our opportunities.

If we can manage to control the football for long periods and add a bit more variety to our play even within potential contraints of poor weather conditions, a loud home support and a ferocious defensive effort should carry us home.

We must approach this game with the right body language – it’s crucial to our ongoing development, but a win against one of the quality sides at this point is a vital starting point.

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