So the dream has died. The hopes of a nation and the greatest collection of rugby players this country has produced has ended. But what will it look like in 2015?
Among the many questions to come out of the wash after Ireland’s 22-10 defeat to Wales is, where is this team heading? While it may not seem like it now I feel this team is heading somewhere positive.
Yes we have seen the last of Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara et al at a World Cup the core of this side will,granted luck, be around in four years and the hurt and pain they feel now will be stored into the collective memory banks.
The likes of Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe, Jamie Heaslip, Cian Healy and Rob Kearney are young, fearless competitors, who will bounce back from this most crushing of professional lows.
In doing so they will drive themselves and the team forward, because the one thing that strikes you about this team is the faith that they have in one another. A low like loosing to Wales will only tighten that brotherly bond.
The gameplan that we have also bodes well for the future. Granted things didn’t click against Wales, but on our day, as we proved against Australia, we are a match for any team in the world.
We don’t lack the talent to compete at the very top, rather we may be a few inches short mentally from consistently performing to the very high standards that we and the team themselves expect.
Those few inches are only gained from having moments like against Wales. Munster, Leinster and indeed Ireland have experience soul crushing lows before fulfilling their dreams. The ultimate dream maybe gone for four more years, but the dream remains flickering.
While there are positvies, one negative needs to be addressed. The fy half debate. Not as in who should be playing, whoever is in the better form should keep the jersey, but rather the almost preordained rule that after 60 minutes the fly half will be getting the shepard crook.
It has to play on both Sexton’s and O’Gara’s mind that they only have an hour to show what they can do before they get replaced. Prehaps if there was a little less uncertainty then both players could feel assured. Sexton, without a doubt, looks a shadow in the green of Ireland as opposed to the blue of Leinster.
Ireland still have a potent backrow and will be a force for years to come. How the inevitable loss of O’Connell, O’Gara and O’Driscoll is managed will go a long way in shaping Ireland’s future.
One would like to see Jamie Heaslip come back to his Lions form which saw him billed as the best No.8 in the world. He will bounce back, and so will this Ireland team.
They demand too much of themselves to go quietly into the night. We demand a lot because they have the talent to give us lifelong memories. There is no doubting that there will be happier days than last Sunday morning to come.
And who know’s could we see Declan Kidney still be in charge come the 2015 World Cup? If Kidney does decide to walk away in two years when his current contract runs out, who will become the next coach of Ireland?
Will Gert Smal step up from been forwards coach to been the head guy at the helm? Will Conor O’Shea be given the chance that his prodigious coaching talent could merit? Or maybe Joe Schmidt might be tempted by the greatest challenge in Irish rugby.
The starting 15 will also have a new feel to it and here at SportsnewsIreland we have gazed into our crystal ball and come up with our starting 15, baring injuries, in the next World Cup.
15. Rob Kearney.
14. Tommy Bowe.
13. Keith Earls.
12. Luke Fitzgerald.
11. Andrew Conway.
10. Jonny Sexton.
9. Conor Murray.
8. Jamie Heaslip.
7. Sean O’Brien (c)
6. Stephen Ferris.
5. Rhys Ruddock
4. Danny Qualter
3. Mike Ross
2. Sean Cronin.
1. Cian Healy.