A connection currently in France at the rugby said to me the other day, with a tinge of sadness attached, that it was unlikely Keith Earls would be seen in an Irish jersey again. I wouldn’t be so sure.
In the reverse of what often happens in this space, let’s go through the positive check list first. Two wins from two, plenty of tries scored, Mac Hansen being absolutely mesmeric and it at least looking like we’ve ample cover for all the vital positions on the field.
The lineout improved markedly too compared to the Romanian match, so Kevin The Carrott (and James Ryan) shouldn’t be in for too much of a slogging from the man who donates pyjamas to Superman!
That said, Paul O’Connell is a perfectionist. No other human being could correctly decipher Borussia Munchengladbach as an answer on A Question Of Sport after seeing the first and last letters.
Therefore, you can be damn sure, understandably, there will be plenty of aspects of Ireland’s performance against the Tongans which will be both cause for concern and reason for minds to be sharp going forward.
Unusually high numbers of penalties conceded, unforced handling errors and turnovers coughed up. All basic errors which can and no doubt will be ironed out before, with respect, the action begins in earnest against the Springboks next weekend.
Now, while not for a second making light of the challenge likely to emerge from the South Africans – not least owing to the intimate knowledge of the Irish setup gleaned by Boks coach Rassie Erasmus during his spell with Munster – with our lads currently, on paper at least, regarded as the top team in world rugby, they should have no reason to fear any opponent. Respect yes, by all means, but no fear.
Though speaking of respect, in certain ways, it’s difficult not to feel Andy Farrell’s charges aren’t being afforded the respect they merit and deserve. Between bullsh** doing the rounds about Hansen and – utterly bizarrely – speculation about Farrell taking over from Steve Borthwick and Erasmus in turn taking over from the former-named ex centre, it wouldn’t take a Jessie Ventura-level conspiracy theorist to arrive at the conclusion that there are forces at least attempting to derail the Irish camp.
Why in God’s name would Farrell want to leave Ireland with the game here in such rude health? Then, why on earth would the RFU want to defenestrate with the services of Borthwick, commanding, as he does, a side currently unbeaten after two group games and this writer’s dispassionate fancy to garner the Webb Ellis Trophy in mid October.
Lastly though, why in the name of all that we hold dear would anybody connected with Irish Rugby want to let Erasmus anywhere near the Ireland job after he set Munster back years? Hopefully the Irish will let their game do the talking and take all the other nonsense off the table.