Friday 14 December 2018

We were so sloppy, but let's accentuate the many positives

I just couldn't wait for that game to end.

Uncomfortable to watch, strewn with errors. But do you know what? We won.

Whatever about our present national predilection for accentuating the negative, we did actually win the match on Saturday.

Contrary to popular opinion, there was a very evident game plan on Saturday, stretch the opposition from side to side, engineer mismatches and exploit them where they exist.

Gaps were made, mismatches found, but it was the application that went awry. Our problem was that our handling was awful. And it wasn't just one player.

The lack of concentration in our backline became infectious and each error compounded on the accuracy of the team and offered a huge boost to an Italian defence that was being stretched from pillar to post.

With every knock-on, Italy grew in confidence and Ireland became flatter in their running lines.

Because the wide game plan was been successful up until the point of error, Ireland persisted with this tactic when, to be honest, a couple of kicks to the corner could have taken the impetus away from the Italians.

This is all part of Jonny Sexton's learning curve in international rugby, a little bit more of game management was needed.

And maybe that is why I am not so negative. The errors are atypical and not likely to occur in such numbers again.

If some of the passes went to hand as we would expect them to, Ireland could conceiveably have gone into half-time 15 points up. Ireland won ugly, are not happy, left Rome chastened and, hopefully, have learnt a lot of lessons. Our new guys went pretty well, our three players short on form, Tomás O'Leary, Donncha O'Callaghan and Luke Fitzgerald, all played far better than they have in the last month.

Our old curse of being favourites seems to affect us badly when things don't go our way.

And I can guarantee you France are overwhelming favourites next week and mentally that is a place we are very comfortable with.

So forget about how bad the game was and let's all start to build confidence for our next battle.

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