“I am delighted that Brian has yet again agreed to lead the side in this years championship. He has the leadership qualities which are vital at this level and, along with those of the other team leaders in the squad, will be important for the tournament ahead”. Declan Kidney’s words not mine.
This week, the Ireland coach named over a 40 man squad for the up coming Six Nations tournament training camps. There is nothing new there, Declan has always named a large squad and chipped away at it until match day 22’s are needed. Once again though this week, there was nothing new in his selection of Ireland captain. Brian O Driscoll will once again lead Ireland in this season’s tournament.
Right. Where do I start. First off let me start by saying that the decision did not surprise me. It is nothing against Brian O Driscoll or anything like that, it is more a thing against the IRFU establishment as a whole.
The captain of any team should be the first name down on the team sheet. Therefore he should be both an on form player and a born leader. O Driscoll maybe a leader, but he is not on form. For me this decision smacks of the IRFU big wigs making sure that O Driscoll is played. The IRFU have not taken into account the fact that three players in the Ireland set up are irreplaceable at the moment. O Gara, Hayes and O Connell. Two of these men are captain material and have proven same. The group stages of last season’s Heineken Cup were O Gara’s finest hours, while the knockout stages, and even more so the start of this season, have been O Connell’s. The decision was a no brainer as if anything the number 13 jersey is a jersey that several players can fill at the moment. Stop me when I have named enough. Earls, Fitzgerald, Bowe, Trimble, Wallace, Darcy, Cave. Ok, I’ll stop. If O Driscoll’s current form is anything to go on then we all know that he is not at his peak. A non captain O Driscoll would be more of a benefit to Ireland. The split in the fans opinions can only be mirrored in the squad.
The press conference/love in, on Tuesday was full of “the team is full of leaders”, “Leadership is about actions and not words” “the team have several leaders” “There is no one captain” mumbo jumbo. The fact of the matter is that the best player by a mile and the best leader by 10 miles is not our captain. Granted he will be on the field and he will be dominating his forwards, but the time has now come for a sea of change. Munster are the best in Ireland. O Connell is the best for Munster, therefore he should be captain.
The entire province of Munster would probably follow Paul O Connell off a cliff like a herd of lemmings, given the chance to play under him. We have seen in recent years that we struggle to get excited about Ireland under O Driscoll.
To lay the matter to rest, this decision is just another stitch in the Biased Tapestry that is the IRFU. When will they see sense? I think it is also worth mentioning that Paul was a picture of courtesy the other day when the decision was made. There was no hiding the disappointment in his eyes though. The collective local press assembled agreed that if all our arms were big enough we have given him a hug. After all the big hits and disappointments, it appears, to me anyway, that this decision was kryptonite to our superman. In a team that needs Munster guts and passion, the main focus should have been the core of Munster. Declan now has his honeymoon period to enjoy. However, this decision has left the Irish rugby public with a big stick to beat him with. For all, let’s hope he is right on this one. He has gotten it right nine out of 10 in the past, but this one looks risky.
To finish. Another point made at the press conference was that Ireland only have four professional clubs and France have 14. “We need to compete” was Kidney’s line. My line would be this and may I add it was agreed with by Mr O Connell. Wales have only four provinces. They have won grand slams. It is time this Ireland squad, golden as it is, gets up and meets the standards set by this province. I know international rugby is not the same as Heineken Cup rugby, but we are no different than Wales in structure and genetics. If they can do it, we can. It is imperative that we do not let this season slip like others before.
Ireland has a chance now to win a grand slam. Whomever they are lead by, they have got to do us proud. As we know down here, if they do that they normally end up with trophies