In these times of upsurge from Scotland’s sexy rugby and the Six Nations becoming more competitive, I would have to wonder if there is not enough being made of Ireland’s efficiency by the Irish supporters themselves.

I’m born and raised in Mallow, a county town in Cork right at the centre of Munster, and at 33 years of age, I have seen the very best and the very worst from the Irish side. In Dublin, on Saturday I had a lovely view of proceedings on the east stand 22 opposite the big screen. As soon as Ireland made it 18 – 3 the atmosphere died. Instead of celebrating the victory the crowd weren’t happy with the style of play, that attitude only seemed to heighten when the France vs England result came through.

One dimensional World Cup winners?

One Fan told me we are too one dimensional to beat England at Twickenham. My answer was this, South Africa 1995, 2007, England 2003, New Zealand 2011. It doesn’t matter how one dimensional your attack is if you employ lethal efficiency.

Ireland at the minute are the most economical team in world rugby, discipline, ball retention and an ability to take every point on offer. Yes, they can be conservative but when they open up it’s a joy, just like the teams I mentioned above. If Ireland loses on Saturday it won’t be because we were too one dimensional, it will be because England were better.

Ireland could well be celebrating like this on Saturday. If not, it won’t because they were one-dimensional. It will be because England were the better team.
©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Celebrate our growing efficiency and hope that it will take us all the way to 2019 because if we win a World Cup no one will care. Rugby is a collision sport not a contact sport. Each tackle a player is forced to make adds an extra five minutes to the length of the game. I can guarantee the Scots felt like the first half was 60 minutes.

Efficiency in sport

Efficiency in sport is scorned all over the world. The best at their field grind you into submission, Tiger Woods at his height confounded his opponents by his ability to consistently take birdies. However, the fans preferred flashier less successful players. In boxing, people mocked the Klitschko’s for being boring. And now a portion of Irish fans and pundits complain about a lack of verve and spontaneity.

It baffles me why people are not happy about winning trophies. Joe Schmidt is highly successful, we have arguably the best middle five in the world, definitely the second best. We have a game built around that five and their individual ability.

Middle five

O’Mahony strangled mauls and harries halfbacks. Leavy carries and shuts down ruck ball. Stander carries and while he doesn’t gain yards he ties up three or four forwards in a breakdown and all of these ingredients set up the two halves doing what they do best… exploiting space with either the boot, hands or running with menace and intelligence. None of this is exciting but my God is it effective and professional.

Murray has become one of the world’s best, if not the best.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung

Fans of the game want exciting running rugby and I understand that but what trophies have Fiji won in 15s. New Zealand grind teams down with quick phases and passes but they still grind teams down. The top try scorer in this year’s Six Nations is Ireland’s left winger with 6 tries. Yes 3 of them were intercepts but they came from a team being dominated into silly mistakes from efficient play.

You might call it boring. I call it engaging.


Author: Donal Lucey

I’m born and raised in Mallow, a county town in Cork right at the centre of Munster I am into powerlifting and rugby. I played in the front row since I was 12, I’m happily married with one on the way, so looking for a new outlet that involves rugby.


  1. Great Article,

    As an England supporter it is exactly that efficiency that has me worried for today.
    Attractive as both Wales and Scotland have been this tournament, there has been a fragility to them, particularly away from home, that Ireland have been able to exploit. Both Wales And Scotland have conceded intercept tries born of playing high risk passes, predicated on a game plan that encouraged that risk taking.
    Away from home in tight matches this approach is as likely to lose you the game as win it.
    Ireland are much more robust and the game plan based on ball retention leaves them less exposed to risk, and therefore better equipped to win away from home.
    The 41 phase drop goal in Paris is testament to this.

  2. Good article, Donal,
    this year’s results say it all! Sometimes you just have to put passion and flair on hold, follow a system and cut loose only when the chance is there. Ireland have been immense this year and, to be fair, for a number of years prior to that. Well done Ireland! Efficiency, flair and accuracy: a winning combination.


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