Wherever you are, or whatever your political affiliation, this is a particularly difficult time in our lives.
Perhaps now more than ever, we need our sport. Of course, in many ways, sport reflects life, but most of all it helps us escape reality and, to be perfectly honest, replace it with fantasy, especially in difficult times.
I am not in a position to enter into a dispute about club against county in Gaelic games; however, there is a huge sporting void in this part of the world that cannot be denied. So I’ll focus on areas where it’s easier for me to say thank you to God for rugby as it returns and the 2022/23 season comes into its own.
Even the fourth most popular field game on this small island is in a strange position, as the world’s number one rugby nation is an outstanding achievement by any measure and a fantastic reflection of the current coaching leadership under Andy Farrell.
What we saw in New Zealand in July was one of the greatest achievements, if not the greatest, of an Irish representative team in international sport. And please note that we are talking about team accomplishments, not individual success over many years.
So as we look ahead with excitement and justified optimism, keep in mind that this time next year, the 2023 FIFA World Cup in France is about to begin. Unfortunately, a premature draw (three years before the end) put us in front of hellish obstacles.
In particular, Ireland are effectively played alongside South Africa, New Zealand and the host nation, with only one of that quartet to qualify for a place in the final four. And no, we are not getting ahead of ourselves here, but it is assumed that we will be able to defeat Scotland, Tonga and Romania, not to mention the “boxes” in our pool.
Indeed, if ever an international game set for the Fall Series takes on a life of its own, it’s the meeting set for Aviva on November 5th, when the reigning world champions come to town. In international rugby there is no such thing as a friendly match; however, even though test games are running, this game is massive in terms of physical, mental and emotional preparation for Saint-Denis on September 23, 2023.
Our performance in New Zealand, especially in the second and third tests, lifted Irish rugby and this group in particular to a new level of respect around the world. The South African International – our first in the November series – has the same status as the New Zealand Test series and requires a comparable level of performance.
This means that all four provinces are showing a level of performance from the outset where Farrell and his management team are free to choose from the best of all four, knowing that individually and collectively as divisions they will meet this testing standard if they rise. level up again.
This is an achievable target, although it is still undoubtedly over-reliant on Leinster Rugby for the moment. So yes, from the very beginning we want all four provinces to press that win button.
The URC is bread and butter and will be treated accordingly, but on a personal level, I single out one province, or in modern parlance, “the club” and without a hint of apology for it.
What has happened in Munster over the past six years has been a disgrace as IRFU and Munster Branch/Munster Rugby have been indicted. We will refrain from suggesting that the asylum was run by lunatics, but to be honest, it is demoralizing for both players and fans, of which I am proud to be one.
For at least 17 months of Rassy Erasmus’ reign, there was a significant and substantial vocal presence on the touchline by Jacques Ninaber, bottle of water in hand.
He was a driving force, as almost every player of that abbreviated era will attest. As for their replacements, when Erasmus and Nienaber were called into national service, the less said about Johann van Graan and Stephen Larkham, the better. Good luck to them in Bath and Brumby respectively.
Graham Rowntree now has the space and power to be himself. He and Denis Leamy will ensure that the old forward standards are maintained but the key to Munster’s future and apart from Ireland winning the World Cup in 12 months is my sincere wish that Munster under Mikey Prendergast adapt like almost any other club. implications for the modern game.
I’m excited about this perspective, and yes, it will certainly take a little time to adjust the Pharrell/Mike Catt formula down a level. An empty attempt still has its place, but only its place. And dare we assume that the strong friendship between Prendergast and Paul O’Connell is not so bad for the province and the country in the future.