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We need to be realistic about Irish rugby side

Published 19/02/2016

I am a rugby supporter, an ex-player and an athletics coach. I have a question — a question I ask myself regularly: what do we want from Irish rugby? What do we want them to achieve?

Personally, I want them to win the World Cup. I think we are good enough. I think that ambition is shared by Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll, two great players who gathered so many accolades and achievements, but not the holy grail of the Webb Ellis trophy.

The Six Nations Championship and our failure to make it three in a row is hard to take. But I’ll take it. As a fan. As a dreamer. As someone who understands that big ambitions mean taking big risks.

I don’t care if we never win a grand slam, or championship, again. I don’t think New Zealand give a damn if they never win the equivalent southern hemisphere championship again, either. But they care about the World Cup and they make mistakes and learn from them, they lose matches (admittedly, not many), they take risks and that process serves them well.

Personal criticism of players is another form of bullying. So-called third, fourth, or fifth-rated players, called into national squads when injury strikes the squad, deserve more.

Constant criticism paralyses creativity and ambition. That’s not just a message for rugby; it’s a message for our society.

D COURTNEY

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