The expectations and hopes of a nation heading into the 2007 Rugby World Cup for Ireland were massive.
Arguably the greatest Irish team of the professional era headed into a tournament, hugely fancied to progress to the latter stages and perhaps pull off something special. However we all know how that worked out.
Ireland’s campaign was a complete and under disaster that saw them fail to qualify from their group and almost lose to Georgia, despite boasting a side filled with promise, experience and talent.
Former Ireland and Munster scrumhalf Peter Stringer was Jarlath Regan’s guest on this week’s edition of An Irishman Abroad, and he offered some interesting insight into the calamity. Much has already been said around the fact that Ireland put too much emphasis on physical conditioning, and that not enough skills-based work was done, and the Corkman agrees.
This should have been planned before we started our pre-season. We’d been in Poland and Dublin, and the majority of the work we did was fitness, and lifting weights.
There was more of that throughout the pre-season than practising our moves. This was the structure and we went with it, and yes, we were probably the fittest team going there, and the best conditioned, but when it came down to it… The tell-tale sign was that Italian friendly in Ravenhill. We found ourselves under pressure, were clueless about a game plan, and we were very lucky not to lose that game in the end.
We would have been working on our moves – which is all well and good, it’s important to have first phase moves – but the majority of the game nowadays is from unstructured play.
That is when you need clarity of thought amongst the squad. Everyone can learn a line-out move, their starting positions and the next phase. The challenge is, after nine, ten, eleven phases, when forwards are integrated with backs around the field, when the opposition have a really good defensive line and your play is totally unstructured: how do you get back into a shape to create something, to generate quick ball?
That’s the training we do nowadays, there is very little first phase play. We didn’t do enough of that…it was a bad time. It was a bad time. [Balls.ie]