Irish Rugby on top of the world

In 1988 the Irish Rugby Union sent three delegates to NZ to study the structure of our game and understand why a little country of under 4 million people way down in the South Pacific could be the No1 rugby country in the world. Their intention was

to return to Ireland and remodel their game. I know this is true because the 3 men concerned had dinner at my place. It may have taken 34 years to get their first series win in NZ, but they did a good job. Ireland is now ranked number one rugby country in the world, easily the highest it has ever been.

In saying that there is clearly something wrong if The All Blacks won by 26 points in the first test & lost by 11 in the second when both teams changed a single player each. Therefore the second and third Tests were an example of a good team beating a team of good players. Ireland were better prepared for both the second & third tests and deserved their victory. The All Blacks are now ranked 4th in the world possibly the lowest they have ever been and they are off to their traditionally greatest challenge of all, to win in South Africa.

Ian Foster will need to provide an environment where his players can mentally prepare themselves to perform at the best of their ability for 80 minutes if they were to beat the Boks at Nelspruit or Johannesburg. The first in a new stadium at low altitude was a must-win because the Ellis Park test will be even more difficult at altitude and with spectators who will be even more stoic.

Competition at this level builds mental strength and team resilience. We saw some of this with a better team effort but the All Blacks were found wanting at scrum time and at the breakdown. The Boks were at their best, possibly better than they have ever been in the past with a clinical performance & thoroughly deserved their win.