Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Angry fans call for O'Sullivan to walk away

Ireland players cut dejected figures after yesterday's humiliating World Cup exit

Green-shirted Ireland supporters were still evident across Paris today, all attempting to drown their sorrows after yesterday's humiliating World Cup exit for Eddie O'Sullivan's side at the hands of Argentina.

Never have so many Irish supporters - an estimated 25,000 made the trip to Parc des Princes to see the Pumas romp to a 30-15 victory - been so angry or united in voice after yesterday's debacle.

Fan after fan outside the ground last night had one message for O'Sullivan and his side: you let us all down.

And more still called for the coach, who was handed a four-year extension by the IRFU before a ball was kicked at this World Cup, to do the right thing and quit.

The disbelief at how Ireland, who only six months ago put England to the sword in spectacular fashion in Croke Park, could turn into such a shambles, has been the burning question over the last four weeks in France.

Ireland struggled past Namibia, should have lost to Georgia and, crucially, failed to get a bonus point which left them with a mountain to climb yesterday, and were routed by France.

And the target of having to win by four tries against a supremely confident and well-equipped Puma side, who now face Scotland in Paris on Saturday in the quarter-finals, was well beyond them.

In the ruthless arena of professional sport, the coach has to take responsibility, as Gareth Jenkins discovered when he was fired within 24 hours of Wales' stunning exit from the tournament after their 38-34 defeat to Fiji on Saturday.

O'Sullivan however last night refused to fall on his sword despite seeing his side crash out of the World Cup at the pool stages for the first time in the tournament's history.

"I'm totally committed to this job," said the under-fire coach.

"I still have a contract to run and every intention of seeing it though.

"I have the appetite for the job and I want to see it out. This has been a tough World Cup, no question about it. Things haven't gone to plan but that's no reason to walk away.

"I've never walked away from a challenge in my life and I don't intend to start now.

"I am very disappointed to be out of the World Cup and I would like to congratulate Argentina for achieving their goal of reaching the quarter-finals.

"This was a very difficult pool and we knew we would have to bring our A-game here and we haven't done that. We haven't fired on all cylinders."

Wingers Lucas Borges and Horacio Agulla crossed in the first half for the Pumas, Felipe Contepomi booted 11 points and Juan Martin Hernandez weighed in with a hat-trick of drop goals as Ireland mustered only two tries by Brian O'Driscoll and Geordan Murphy, with Ronan O'Gara adding a penalty and conversion.

"It was a big mountain to climb," added O'Sullivan.

"It wasn't a straightforward game where a one-point win would get us across the line like it did four years ago.

"We had a different agenda and that coloured the game for us and Argentina. It was hard work out there and we didn't get the rewards we were looking for."

Ireland captain O'Driscoll attempted to take the heat off the beleagured coach by claiming his side's World Cup exit was the fault of the players.

O'Driscoll said: "There's only so much coaching that can be done. The responsibility is on the 15 guys that take the field. We didn't front up enough during the four games."

France's bonus-point 64-7 victory over Namibia yesterday salvaged a second place finish for the hosts, who now head for a mouth-watering showdown with New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday as the Irish head home.

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