By Rugby World reader Ken FitzGerald
Once more unto the breach dear friends….
This famous quote is from Shakespeare’s play Henry the V. The breach in the quote refers to a whole in the wall surrounding the town of Harfleur in Northern France. Henry and is army had besieged the town in 1415. During a lull in the fighting Henry addressed his exhausted troops to ignite their passions and motivate them to attack the whole in the wall again and to basically keep going in the face of adversity. Most of us have probably seen clips of this blood rousing speech over the years performed on film by Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Brannagh. The reason I mention this is for two reasons. The first being I was struck by the thought of what words of inspiration Martin Johnson uses on his players before a game; and the second being will Graham (gis’a hug Shawsy) Simmons’s producer at BSkyB have to use a similar speech to get him to interview the goliath that is the England manager again? If you haven’t seen the post match interview from last Saturdays England Argentina game u-tube it. The ending is hilarious. To say the Martin Johnson looked like a man under siege is an understatement.
No matter how poor a spectacle the game was England got a win and they will take positives from that. Argentina is a difficult side to play against and a win is a win. But is this England side paralysed by a fear of failure? Has Martin Johnson become for England in just over a year what Roy Keane did for Sunderland? Isn’t man management and motivation about empowering decision making on the field not stifling it? With the exception of more decoy runners being used I saw no improvement in England’s attacking play and both Geraghty and Wilkinson didn’t have good days at the office. Regardless I think England will be bolstered this week by the inclusion of the excellent Simon Shaw and will go into the game believing they can at least compete with the All Blacks this weekend. I fear it will be all one way traffic in Twickenham though.
I must admit I didn’t see the Scotland Fiji game but am always pleased for a Celtic win; and the All Blacks proved that their brand is a big draw just about everywhere. Great to see a rugby match going ahead in the San Siro, a source in the ERC tells me it may be one of several Italian venues being considered for the Heineken Cup final in 2013.
And so that brings me onto Ireland. I was right about the cataclysmic tussle prediction last week but not about the result. Was this the third and fourth best teams in the world playing each other? If you believe in the rankings is was. While not a great spectacle and the atmosphere in Croke park was nothing like the Heineken Cup semi final last May. It was still by and large a fascinating encounter. It was Brian O Driscolls 100th cap, it was Rockys return to his adopted home city and it was Cian Healy’s test debut. The selection of Paddy Wallace at inside centre absolutely baffled me. The Wallabies couldn’t believe their luck and the excellent Pocock and Elsom ran down the ten twelve channel all day. O’Gara had a shaky start giving O’Driscoll a hospital pass leading to the softest try the Wallabies will see all tour, and the rest of his game wasn’t much better. Which brings me to the question of Declan Kidneys selection policy. If he dropped Gordon D’Arcy because he believed he wasn’t playing well for Leinster and he picked Paddy Wallace because he believed he was playing well for Ulster then why was Ronan O’Gara selected at out half when Leinsters Jonathan Sexton is clearly the inform out half in the country at the moment ? Why did the wily Kidney not play Tommy Bowe at inside center and the in from Shane Horgan on the wing with Keith Earls on the bench? This team was not picked on form and was looking dead in the water until Cian Healy grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and charged twenty meters over the gain line and deep into the wallaby twenty two late in second half igniting the passions of the seventy odd thousand in the stadium. They showed a lot of belief to stay in the game and fought hard for the draw. But Ultimately Ireland got out of jail with a last gasp try from their mercurial talismanic captain. But let’s hope the fifteen to face South Africa in two weeks are all their on merit and not for services rendered. This of course won’t happen, which makes me think of what words of inspiration the crafty Cork man uses to motivate his troops.
Once more unto the breech dear friends….
p.s can any of Rugby World’s English readers please explain Steve Borthwicks selection for the England team never mind as captain?