Ireland shouldn't overreact to World Cup woe, says Conor O'Shea
By Brian Barry
Last Updated: 29/11/19 7:16am
A shock defeat to Japan followed by a 32-point drubbing at the hands of New Zealand wasn't exactly how Ireland had envisaged the World Cup would play out.
The fallout has sparked huge debate, with many questioning if the IRFU ought to review the entire approach and set-up.
However, former Italy and Harlequins head coach Conor O'Shea called for calm.
"Do you react because of the World Cup? Then overreact and tear everything up?" he questioned. "I think that would be pretty silly."
The issue of the home-based players rule has also been brought up, with some calling for Irish stars plying their trade outside of the four provinces to be eligible for selection.
"Just because South Africa did leading into the World Cup doesn't mean we all have to suddenly change," countered O'Shea.
"The strength of Irish rugby over the last number of years has been the provinces. But would we be in a position of strength if we had all the players away?
"You can't be half-pregnant. If one goes, 20 might go and then provinces and the feel-good and then the sponsors so I think it's too simple to say let them go. Might there people who actually benefit from the experience? Because there might be. Johnny [Sexton] did it in the past. Simon Zebo might come back, you never know and he might have enjoyed his experience away but when someone goes you have Mike Haley who has come in and started the season well.
"I think Ireland have got themselves into a very strong position by having this system."
I'm not an over-reactor to things. I think we punch above our weight, or to our weight level. We've a lot of talented players, so why rip it up?
O'Shea appealed for level heads
You don't need to look far for a Tier One nation who stuck to their guns amidst criticism, and eventually reaped the rewards.
"What South Africa have done is brilliant for South Africa," noted O'Shea. "They have always been this massive team that will say 'I will look you in the eye and I will run over you'.
"That's the South African DNA, and they delivered it and they won. They didn't necessarily, no one was saying that after they lost to New Zealand in the first match.
"They got beaten, and they got slammed in their media for being one-dimensional.
"But they didn't overreact. They said, if we lose, we'll lose our way'. Which is brilliant by Rassie [Erasmus]."
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Overall, the former Ireland winger feels the outlook is largely positive for his native country.
"You look at the provinces every week...they are winning, by and large, every weekend. So that goes into [international] camp. They know how to win, they've got a history of trophies," he said,
"You look at Leinster and the young guys. People like Ronan Kelleher, look at what he has done now from the start of the season, so that's players putting their hands up and putting pressure on. Jack [Conan] gets a bad injury and Max Deegan goes in and has been playing brilliantly at number eight.
"You look at the age profile of James Ryan. It's like anything, you move on very quickly. Jacob Stockdale's try-saving tackle in that first game against Bath. Joey Carbery will come back and put pressure. There's a lot of good players.
"Johnny Cooney missed out on the World Cup and is obviously playing brilliantly. So when you have that depth of competition and look at the Irish provinces compared to the Welsh provinces at the minute. Scotland are very reliant on a couple of players - you look at Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg.
"Ireland are in good shape. I know you have to dissect everything and analyse it but sometimes you can over-analyse things. You just say, the World Cup didn't go the way they wanted. They won't get another opportunity for four years to right that so all they can do is look at the next game that is in front of them and win those next games."
The rebuilding job falls at the feet of Andy Farrell, who succeeds the outgoing Joe Schmidt.
"It'll be a fascinating next few years to watch how the Irish team evolves," mused O'Shea.
"Eddie Jones did it where he brought through some of those young guys but he still had a path for your [Chris] Robshaws and [Mike] Browns at the start so there might be some Irish players who don't make the next World Cup but they are vital to winning now.
"And it's [then] when the new guys come in, because it's not just about chucking a load of young guys in."