The Problem Is “Ireland Are Trying To Play One Way”


Brent Pope says he’s slightly worried, especially in a Rugby World Cup year, that it appears teams have figured out how Ireland like to play and are now able to shut them down as a result.

Joe Schmidt’s men have been pretty lacklustre in the Six Nations this year with neither their running or kicking game firing as it has in the previous 18 months.

Pope says the optimists will say the Ireland head coach is keeping his cards close to his chest tactically ahead of Japan, but he feels there is some serious cause for concern.

“I believe that a lot of teams have worked out how Ireland are trying to play.” Pope said on RTE’s Against the Head.

“The optimists are saying that Joe [Schmidt] is keeping stuff back. Last week they didn’t play a particularly kicking game they ran a lot of ball.”

“But the problem is Ireland are to trying to play it one way. They’re losing the collision areas which is a rarity for Ireland over the last 18 months or so.”

“I think that teams are only putting in one or two to rucks – even the Italians worked that out as did Scotland to a certain degree and as did England in a sense that the Irish are gain line breakers just aren’t making the gain lines.”

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan thinks it’s a combination of mental and tactical issues.

“It’s a combination of both I think.” O’Sullivan said when asked if it was Ireland’s problems were mental or tactical 

“The problem mentally now is, I suppose the error count is the giveaway. When you’re putting ball on the ground or you’re making mistakes that normally don’t happen. The trademark of this team under Joe Schmidt has been accuracy, efficiency and execution. And we’ve been anything but that in the last three games. So that’s beginning to get into the psyche now.”

“And we are getting shut down by other teams. Our returns for ball-carrying have been pretty paltry over three games. So I think what’s happening now is the pressure is on the team and they’re making mistakes.

“Once you make the first mistake we saw the body language of the team changing [against Italy] when they realised that things weren’t sticking for them.”

“We’re three games in and we haven’t found our mojo yet and that’s a big problem.”

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