Irish Rugby: What Needs to Be Done

AT a time when other team sports are becoming better organised in Ireland, rugby at an international level remains in a state of chaos and indiscipline with inevitable consequences in international championships. Ireland has won just one match in the last two years and we were lucky at that.
The problem stems from the administration at the top of the IRFU which is responsible for the bizarre choice of selectors and the unfortunate choice of coach-whatever Noel Murphy's assets are as a motivator, he is not the calculated organiser that Ireland clearly needs at present. But a few basic tasks could be accomplished this season, among which are some of the following suggestions.

1. Mike Gibson should be played at full back. His positional sense and ball comrol are ideal for the job even if his tackling prowess is suspect. He sould be encouraged to attack as much as possible for the agressive potential of the rest of the team will not be considerable.

2 . Freddie McLennon will fill one of the wing three quarter positions. The other should go to a big man who can run fast-surely the selectors can find one of  these.

3. Dick Milliken should return to the centre and he should be accompanied by McKibben, even though he looked the less impressive of the two centres last season. Paul McNaughton just doesn't have the potential of the latter in attack.

4. Tony should not be regarded as the answer to our out-half problems. In spite of the glut of media praise he didn't do very well last season. His kicking was impressive but his attempts at attack were pathetic. He persists with the attempted inside break, apparently because he doesn't have the speed for the outside one and he failed throughout the season to get his centres moving properly. His inability to kick with his left foot is also worrying. He does kick penalty goals which is a decided advantage in a competition which is dominated by them but is that enough? The selectors should consider seriously more accomplished attacking out-halves, such as Darragh Coackley and Ian Burns. Since we have failed so abjectly in playing a defensive game it makes sense to switch to attack.

5. Forget about John Maloney at serum half and captain. He performed adequately last season but his slow passing kills any possible attacking initiative by the backs and his own attacking skills have been blunted with the years. John Robbie is possibly the best serum half in these islands and we should give him the job and let him get on with it, never mind the odd indifferent performance. Robbie is so good that the team should be built around him and eventually he should be given the captaincy.

6. The front row needs to be tutored in the basics of front row play by someone who knows about it-i.e. Ray McLaughlin. If he is not to be made overrall manager or coach, then at least he should be given charge of the from row.

7. The second row has been a disaster area for some time. We have consistently lost heavily at the line-outs, partly because we don't have the jumpers and partly because this facet of the team's play has been chaotic. In the first place Moss Keane and Donal Spring should be given a course of exercises to improve their jumping abilities. Then a series of strategies should be worked out of the lineeout to combat remaining deficiencies in this area. There should be swift variations of positions in the line-out, the fast ball into the number 2 man should be used more often and the short line out should be planned. Last season there was hardly no line-out practice, this season there should be plenty. Spring, incidentally, is one of the few really outstanding players in Irish rugby at present. He has a natural football ability, rare for a second row player and if he fills out physically he could emerge as a great player. And incidentally, if this isn't working well how about importing some of the outstanding GAA players, such as Jack O'Shea of Kerry and Brian Mullins and Bernard Brogan of Dublin?

8. Fergus Slattery should be made captain and involved intimately in team strategy and training. The other wing forward position should unquestionably go to Shay Deering. If Willie Duggan is faltering at Number 8 then there is Michael Gibson of Lansdowne ready to take over.

9. The panel should be assembled soon and the basic flaws of the team tackled, expecially in relation to the line out but also rucking and scrummaging. Instead of there being just the pre-match training sessions tthere should be at least 15 other sessions at which attention is given to individual players, individual training schedules are set out and practice in the basics is undertaken.

Johnny Giles, Tony Hanahoe and Mick o Dwyer have shown what intelligent organisation can achieve, there is no reason why this should not be as successful in rugby, even if there is reason to doubt that the game is as susceptible to intellligence than either soccer or Gaelic football e