Autumn Internationals Review: Ireland, Wales and Scotland

30 11 2010

Ireland

This has been a difficult and mixed Autumn campaign for the Irish in which, unfortunately, the major scalps of New Zealand and South Africa evaded their willing hands. Ireland, it has to be said, whilst the best of the three Gaelic nations, remain half a level below the major powers of world rugby. Capable of sneaking a win here or there but rarely dominating and, until they get a forward pack powerful enough to compete and really take charge of the exchanges up front, this is unlikely to change.

The Autumn did not get off to the best start with a two point defeat to South Africa at the new Aviva stadium at Lansdowne Road – a game they would have been furious to lose. Unfortunately a combination of early season rust, a poor game plan in the wet, and an obdurate South African display meant that the proud Irish record over the Boks at home over the past decade meant nothing at all.

A scrappy win followed over Samoa with a slightly experimental team and then it was the turn of the All Blacks. With all due respect to Argentina and Samoa (and possibly even South Africa) it was this game, as with all the home nations, that showed just how far they have to travel to be genuine world cup contenders come October next year. That the Irish forced the AB’s to play in top gear occasionally and even caused them problems (for about 30 minutes) is credit to the men in green, yet despite playing out of their skins the Irish eventually went down by 20 points – as sobering a result as any in their recent history.

Argentina finished off the Autumn but never presented a challenge being as they are a fairly limited outfit. Ireland will be pleased with their victories but the two losses mean much more unfortunately than the wins.

To step up to the next level it is paramount that Declan Kidney finds some men in the tight five who are really capable of taking the fight to the southern hemisphere. Without this base the undoubted class of the outside backs will never be able to shine fully.

Heaslip, Ferris and Wallace remain a top quality back three but they need back up and some ball carrying support from the locks and front row. O’Callaghan needs to step up to the plate here in the absence of O’Connell.

Out wide it is clear that despite a good showing against a very limited Argentinian team, Gordon Darcy has had his day. For a long time he has been a shadow of the player he was, for ever such a brief period back in 2006 or so, and the 12 slot remains Irelands biggest weakness out wide. We recall Trimble moon lighting there – perhaps that is something they could look at more seriously?

Ireland have, as ever, the potential to be a really good side but there are a couple of crucial ingredients missing and until these are fixed look destined to be quarter finalists at best down under.

Wales

Wales’ problems are in many ways similar to Irelands. Apparent quality across the board but a results board of three losses and one draw indicates that something is seriously wrong. Zero wins is simply not good enough. When you consider that the draw came against Fiji you realize just how deep the depths the Welsh plumbed are.

Against Australia they never looked like winning although there was a enough grit there to keep things close. Fiji as we have said was an unmitigated disaster; South Africa was a game they should have won until the old Welsh failing of forgetting a game is 80 minutes long took hold; and New Zealand were never in any serious danger.

If you look back at the history of Wales’ games against Tri Nations teams over the past decade, it is obvious that there are many matches in which one of two things happened. Either they came out hard and were in contention or even possibly leading at half time only to fade in the second half – or an abysmal 65 minutes was masked by an excellent and thrilling last 15.

Against South Africa they managed the former although in fairness they only collapsed in the last quarter. Versus New Zealand, despite what Ieuan Evans may have said in the Daily Telegraph, they were never seriously in the hunt although it was a much improved performance. Had Dan Carter kicked his goals the Kiwis would have been out of sight long before half time although, as it proved, they always have an extra gear when needed in these situations.

Like Ireland the talent is there, but unlike their neighbours across the Irish Sea, they seem to lack any grit at all and certainly any ability to close out games. Looking ahead to next year a quarter final spot is appearing to be a distant dream at this stage.

One last thing – the consensus is that Warren Gatland is a good coach – yet his win record is increasing poor. When do people start questioning him or is he, boasting as he does a brand new contract through to 2015, untouchable?

Scotland

Bizarrely, despite the hammering against New Zealand there were probably more plus points for the Scottish team than negative. Andy Robinson continues to do a good job and 2010 has now been a very successful year for them. They are playing with a game plan, some excellent defence (apart from the Kiwi game) and a handful of top quality players now in evidence as well as them being the only Home Nations team to have a positive win loss record this Autumn.

The win over South Africa is of course the major achievement of the Autumn campaign and one that was fully deserved by all accounts. Clearly the answer is to embarrass themselves the week before as without a sound thrashing they don’t appear to get worked up enough to compete at the top table. Problems with depth of talent and quality persist but they deserve praise for making the most of what they have.

Due to clashes in scheduling we missed all the Scottish games and so have less to say on the them than the others but one thing is for sure, anyone travelling to Murrayfield is certainly not going to take them lightly in this year’s Six nations. World Cup will be a different story however and they look like being quarter finalists at best.

Conclusion

Same old same old on the whole for the Gaelic nations. Some good moments but when it comes down to it – not enough quality or consistency to really trouble the best or put away the minnows.

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4 responses

30 11 2010
Rugby Nick

Sorry but some of that doesn’t tie up with me, especially on the Welsh side

“Looking ahead to next year a quarter final spot is appearing to be a distant dream at this stage.”

Based on? A draw with Fiji by a 2nd team?

Who do you believe will stop Wales getting that quarter final slot – especially enough to make it a ‘distant dream’

But then given your predictions of Wales getting stuffed last weekend and England getting a good win sorry if I find your conjecture as to the Welsh chances in the RWC equally unlikely.

Quarter Final having beaten Fiji and Samoa will be simple enough.

30 11 2010
Rugby Nick

Sorry, sounded a tad harsher than i meant that!

1 12 2010
Bradders

No worries! No issues with anyone disagreeing!

Probably ‘distant dream’ is a bit strong but I simply meant that on this Autumn’s evidence a decent Samoa side plus a so so Fiji side wouldn’t make things straightforward – it was Fiji that did you last time after all… Its more frustration for me coming through actually – I love watching the Welsh play as I love the running style etc but so frequently you guys (i’m assuming your Welsh?) compete but the wins remain elusive.

As far as my predictions – I think I got every single one of them wrong although I don’t think you could blame me for saying what I said! It was more a comment on the AB’s team than the Welsh saying 45-18 (or whatever it was!) Having watched the AB’s play so brilliantly against Ireland I just thought a similar result would ensue.

This Autumn has made me think I should give up the prediction business! So many of the results were unexpected either in the severity, the result or both… England vs Australia, France vs Australia, Scotland vs South Africa etc…

Cheers

1 12 2010
Bradders

p.s. have added a link to your site so my readers can get a more Welsh view!

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