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19th Oct 2015

‘The worst chokers in World Cup history’ – How the world’s media reacted to Ireland’s exit

"The worst chokers in World Cup history"


Most Irish media outlets focused on how “brave” Ireland were in defeat yesterday.

Joe Schmidt’s team succumbed to a crushing 43-20 loss to Argentina in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. The Pumas blitzed Ireland from the start, and were leading 14-0 after 10 minutes.

A spirited fightback got Ireland within a score of their southern hemisphere opponents, but the deficit was ultimately too much and Argentina ran out worthy winners.

While some media outlets in Ireland were kind to Schmidt’s side, Wayne Smith of The Australian had no such sympathy.

The loss confirmed Ireland as the worst chokers in World Cup history. Despite the fact they had beaten Argentina the last five times they met, Joe Schmidt’s team because the sixth Irish side to lose a Cup quarter-final. Indeed, they have never progressed to the semi-finals, making them the only Tier One nation never to have progressed that far.

The way the Pumas started, it seemed Ireland were going to be completely blotted out.

The Guardian’s Kevin Mitchell spoke about Ireland’s notable absentees, and reserved praise for their opponents.

That is 10 minutes of the first half, with the Irish 14 points down and rattled to the point of confusion.

In that don’t-blink opening, their pack, robbed of their captain, Paul O’Connell, and best player, Sean O’Brien, not to mention Peter O’Mahony, lost only their second scrummage of the tournament. Their backs, without the guiding hand of Johnny Sexton, could only watch as Argentina teased and taunted them… This was a nightmare unfolding like a bad novel.

Argentina’s challenge was at the opposite end of the spectrum of expectations: were they capable of resisting the inevitable backlash, even with a 17-point cushion after only a quarter of an hour? They were playing like France – not the current model but the team of old, of daring and self-belief, although there were cracks in the facade.

Paul Hayward, writing in The Daily Telegraph, focused more on the Northern Hemisphere’s plight.

This World Cup has brought regression for the countries who will fight for lesser spoils this winter in the great cities of London, Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Rome. This tournament is being played in European conditions, remember, but the Europeans are all at sea: injured, en masse, or undone by southern creativity. 

At least England can hide in this pack a bit. The embarrassment is shared more widely now. But until the European countries shift from brawn to brain there will be no redress. The victors at this World Cup have been speed and accuracy of execution. Or, in a word: skills.

The Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton lamented the loss of Paul O’Connell.

But this, Joe Schmidt conceded afterwards, was the game when Ireland needed the experience of Paul O’Connell and the composure of Johnny Sexton. When, in the face of such tenacity from a South American side that played the more aggressive, more expansive rugby, they needed the guile and ferocity of players like Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony

O’Connell might have lifted Irish spirits when he appeared briefly on the giant screens here at the Millennium Stadium but the injury he suffered against the French proved Ireland’s undoing every bit as much as the loss of Sexton in that same brutal encounter last week. 

This time the understudies were not quite up to the task, with Ian Madigan unable to build on the fine display he produced when he came on as Sexton’s replacement a week earlier. He was certainly no match for Nicolas Sanchez, the architect of Argentina’s ambitious back play as well as the scorer of 23 points.

If Madigan was at fault for allowing his nerves to get the better of him, he should not be left to carry the burden of responsibility alone.

Defensively Ireland’s backs were poor, and as a team they simply froze in an explosive opening quarter that saw Argentina twice cross the try line to surge into a commanding lead.

While Gregor Paul, writing in The New Zealand Herald, claimed Ireland, and other Northern Hemisphere sides, are carrying too much weight.

The other Southern Hemisphere commonality – linked to their better decision-making – is their base conditioning. It’s not scientific or foolproof by any means, but the body shapes of the Southern Hemisphere players tend to be leaner.

The Irish front row in particular were carrying spare tyres, as were the English. This is a sport all about making marginal gains and if the tight five can not only last a bit longer, but get around that bit better, it makes a huge difference.

That mobility matters. The All Blacks had the world gasping against France because their two props – Charlie Faumuina and Joe Moody were so comfortable on the ball.

It’s partly true they are both naturally gifted that way but they were only able to show that because of them have worked tirelessly over the last six months to get themselves fitter.

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