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Is Schmidt to Blame for Ireland’s RWC Failings?

The IRFU have placed the blame of Ireland’s dismal World Cup campaign on Joe Schmidt, but is it really that easy?

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Yesterday, the IRFU held a meeting with a group of handpicked journalists to deliver their verdict on Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign.

The result according to the IRFU was that Ireland failed to evolve a game plan, failed in performance due to anxiety, had poor preparation ahead of the tournament and had a skills deficit compared to the world’s best teams. 

All of which appears to have been placed on head coach Joe Schmidt, who stepped aside following the conclusion of the tournament. 

The conclusion of where the team failed was reached by IRFU high performance director David Nucifora, who interviewed coaches and staff, while an independent body held discussions with the players, with all roads leading to the four failings mentioned above. 

Schmidt, who took over as head coach in 2013, a year before Nucifora took his role with the IRFU, is becoming the sole person responsible for the team’s failure, but is that fair?

Yes, Ireland appeared to be stuck playing the same game-plan as their impressive 2018 campaign, which saw them defeat all before them, which is a failure to evolve, but Schmidt had a full team of back-room staff, were they not capable of coming up with a different plan? Or were the players themselves unable to use their own initiative to bring forward a case of how they should play to Schmidt?

In terms of performance anxiety, these are international stars, playing on the biggest stage in European rugby for their provinces on a regular basis. Some criticized Schmidt for not rotating the team enough, but that meant that the same players where playing on the international stage for Ireland on a regular basis too, why are they anxious? 

These are the cream of the crop in Ireland, players that have won Champions Cups and PRO14 titles with their clubs, Six Nations titles and Grand Slams with Ireland, winning series tours with their country and some have even represented the British and Irish Lions on the grand stage. Why are they anxious and what does it have to do with Schmidt? 

Schmidt is a man renowned for his tactical and thorough preparation, looking at teams inside out to find their weaknesses and looking at his own team to find their strengths so what changed this year from a man that admitted his only regret when leaving the job was the fact that he only took one day off in six years. 

The team had played together many times before, went on training camps weeks before the tournament in Japan, including hot-weather camps to prepare for the soaring temperatures and humidity, and played pre-World Cup warm-up games. So why weren’t they prepared and once more how is Schmidt to blame?

Lastly, a lack in skills, an area were former players have noted Ireland failed to capitalise on during the past year. Some pointing towards Leinster’s style of play and asking why players weren’t following that example. 

It is true that Schmidt prefers a risk-free game, but surely once on the pitch, the players must use their initiative when opportunities arise, and play expansive rugby when the chances come if that’s how to win a game of rugby. 

Schmidt may have asked them to be more careful, but it is up to the players on the pitch to seize a game by the scruff of the neck and create openings. It seems unlikely that Schmidt would have argued with his players if they made it further in the World Cup by taking more of a risk. 

The four areas where Ireland failed to seem to be somewhat of the overall problem, and it would be foolish not to place some of the blame on the head coach, but it seems strange and even more foolish to pile the sole blame on him. 

There was a group of staff and players that prepared and went to Japan, a group of talented individuals, if Schmidt was falling short they should have been able to point it out and take it upon themselves to help solve the issues at hand. 

May the environment had gone stale after six years of the same routine, may the players needed more of a challenge, but what appeared to happen this year more than before was the players looked to lack motivation and desire in the green jersey, and that is on them no matter who tries to cover it up. 

While others find it easy to point the finger of blame to a man no longer associated with the IRFU, a look in the mirror may be a good idea. Afterall, if Schmidt was the problem then questions may be raised as to why it is his former right-hand man becoming Ireland’s head coach. Hopefully exciting times lie ahead under Andy Farrell, but don’t be surprised if more of the same is to follow.  

Four years ago Ireland were trounced in the quarter-finals of the World Cup by Argentina, in between then they arguably became the best team in the world under Schmidt, before being trounced again by the All Blacks at the same stage of the competition. The hope will be that Farrell can produce something others have failed to in the Irish hot-seat, but a review of a tournament isn’t what will help, a review of the system is needed and each member involved with Ireland’s failings should hold their hand up for the failure, because one man isn’t the only person at fault.

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All Blacks announce new Captain

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

All Blacks Press Release:

All Blacks loose forward and Chiefs Captain Sam Cane has been named as the new Captain of the All Blacks.

The news was announced on SKY Sport’s The Breakdown show tonight, with Cane succeeding Kieran Read who retired from the All Blacks after Rugby World Cup 2019.

A natural leader, 28-year-old Cane has played 68 Tests, including 48 starts, since making his debut against Ireland in 2012, aged just 20.

All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said he was delighted to name Cane as the new captain.

“Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a ‘follow me’ type of leader and a very good thinker in the game. He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.

“There’s massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he’s perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future.”

Foster said while the All Blacks’ plans for this year were still being worked through due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an important role for the captain.

“We wanted to confirm Sam now because he’ll play a key role helping us plan for whatever the future looks like and will be working behind the scenes with the other leaders,” Foster said.

Cane said it was a “massive honour” to be given the captaincy.

“It’s a pretty exciting challenge really and as I’ve spent more time in the All Blacks and grown as a player, I’ve become a lot more comfortable being a leader in the team.

“The great thing about the All Blacks is that the leadership group is full of captains and experienced players already, so I’m just really looking forward to working closely with that group and doing my best to lead them and the rest of the squad.”

Cane has already captained the All Blacks on three occasions. He became the 67th Test captain and fifth youngest ever when he captained the team against Namibia at RWC2015 at the age of 23. He also captained the team against Italy in 2016 and against Argentina in Buenos Aires last year.

“My style as captain will be to not really change the way I do things. I’m just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue,” Cane added.

“While we don’t know yet what the rest of the year looks like for the All Blacks, I’m looking forward to catching up with the coaches and other senior players as we firm up our plans.”

Mini biography – Sam Cane

Raised in the small rural Bay of Plenty community of Reporoa, Sam Cane has had an exceptional career since breaking into professional rugby as a teenager. He made his provincial debut for Bay of Plenty in 2010 at just 18 years old and his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs the following year. In 2011, Cane was also part of the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 side, was the New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year and was also nominated for International Age Grade Player award. He helped the Chiefs to the first of their back-to-back Investec Super Rugby titles in 2012 before making his All Blacks debut in June that year aged 20. A devastating tackler and scavenger, he has continued to take his game to new levels in recent seasons. He was co-Captain of the Chiefs for four years taking sole charge this year and has played 116 games for the club. In 2018 Cane fractured his neck during a Test against South Africa and faced months of recovery post-surgery before making a much-anticipated return to the Chiefs in 2019, helping the team through to the Quarter Finals. A Rugby World Cup 2015 champion with the All Blacks, Cane was also part of the RWC2019 squad.

Samuel Jordan Cane

Born: 13 January 1992 in Rotorua
Physical: 1.89m, 106kg
Position: Loose forward
Province: Bay of Plenty
Investec Super Rugby team: Chiefs
Investec Super Rugby appearances: 116
All Blacks Debut: 16 June 2012, vs Ireland in Christchurch, aged 20.
All Blacks Tests: 68 (Three as Captain)
All Blacks Test Points: 65pts (13 tries)
All Black Number: 1113

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Rugby Australia Make Significant Cuts

Following the coronavirus pandemic rugby has been hit hard with no way of playing games and now Rugby Australia have been forced into making cuts in order to retain staff in the long-run

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia have confirmed that they will be standing down 75% of their staff in a bid to combat the growing struggles that the coronavirus pandemic is causing.

The workers will be released from tomorrow until the 30th of June due to the lack of finances available to Rugby Australia with the Super Rugby season currently on hold and a strong possibility of the Wallabies summer tests being called off. 

In the worst case possible the organisation are predicting a loss of $120 million due to the virus and speaking on the latest developments the organisation’s chief executive Raelane Castle admitted this was the toughest decision she and her colleagues had ever had to make. 

“Today we have had to deliver the hardest news imaginable to our incredible, hard-working and passionate staff, that many of them will be stood down for a three-month period so that the game can survive this unprecedented crisis. Since the suspension of our proposed domestic Super Rugby competition, we have been working to understand both the immediate and long-term financial implications for the game as a result of the suspension of the competition, and potential further loss of revenue-generating content as we look ahead to the international season. Our extensive modelling shows that as a code, we could lose up to $120 million in revenue should it not be possible for any rugby to be played in 2020. Of course, that is the worst case scenario, and we are very hopeful that we can recommence the Super Rugby season and domestic Wallabies test matches at some point this year. The measures we will implement from April 1, although extremely painful, are necessary to ensure the sport remains financially viable and to ensure that we are able to come out the other side of this global crisis, fully-operational and ready to throw everything into the rebuild. It is our priority to keep all of our valued team connected and engaged through this period,” she said. 

Castle’s has already taken a 50% pay cut since the crisis began and the rest of Rugby Australia’s executives will have a 30% reduction in pay. 

It is a tough call to make in order to preserve rugby in Australia and the fear is that things may get worse with a fear that not all four of the country’s Super Rugby franchises will make it through to next season due to the financial losses.

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Jones Set for Pay Cut

England head coach Eddie Jones is set to be asked to take a pay cut during the current coronavirus outbreak according to reports

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England head coach Eddie Jones will be asked to take a 25% pay cut due to the coronavirus outbreak according to the PA news agency.

The Rugby Football Union have already cut the wages of their executive team by the same amount and the organisation are expecting revenue losses of up to £50 million over the next 18 months due to the virus. 

Jones has the highest salary of all international coaches with a yearly wage of around £750,000 and it is believed that talks are to be held with him and his coaching staff in the coming days to reduce that. 

The former Japan head coach is currently heading into the final year of his contract which runs out come July 2021 and it remains to be seen whether he will be asked to lead England into the 2023 French Rugby World Cup

Meanwhile, a number of Jones’ English stars have already taken pay cuts at their respective clubs following the outbreak. However, some reports claim that players will be taking legal action against their clubs over these cuts. 

With the timeline of recovery from the overall virus unknown rugby is heading into the future with no return date and as such it is unclear how long or far these reductions will have to go to keep organisations afloat.

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