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Rugby World Cup: Ireland will win Webb Ellis Cup if the kids are all right

By Willie Anderson

Published 23/10/2015

Down and out: Rob Kearney and his Ireland team-mates show their dejection after last week’s defeat by Argentina
Down and out: Rob Kearney and his Ireland team-mates show their dejection after last week’s defeat by Argentina

It's no surprise to me that the teams who play a brand of rugby that Ireland can only dream of are the ones still in with a shout of lifting the trophy next Saturday.

While we've seen what New Zealand, Australia and South Africa can do for years and years, the skills on show from Argentina over the last number of weeks have been a sight to behold.

It could have been a different game if not for those five key men who were missing but Ireland were no match for Argentina and rightly beaten by a better side.

Wales and Scotland will say they were unlucky in the final minutes of their quarter-finals but Joe Schmidt's men can have no complaints.

Putting the disappointment of their exit to one side, how thrilling it was to see a team play with their heads up, appreciate the space, and even rely on an offload or two.

In this part of the world, it's a game that we just don't see and that starts all the way down at the bottom.

While the likes of Australia split their underage rugby into size groups rather than age, you'd never see that here and our kids aren't learning to play the game the right way.

I remember working for the IRFU and saying that carrying of the ball in one hand should be banned at underage level…the suggestion may as well have been laughed right out of the room.

So we still see the biggest kids tuck the ball under one arm and just hand-off their way up the field and over the line, learning nothing about passing or offloading.

What happens when he finally comes up against someone the same size and capable of stopping him?

He has no idea what to do.

Schools competitions all over Ireland have become too important with coaches under too much pressure to win at all costs.

The structured, ruck to ruck game we see at that level will do nothing to breed the professionals we want coming through for Ulster and Ireland and, it must be remembered, just isn't that much fun to play.

At Sullivan I think it took a year for us to really get it right.

You have to be willing to fail in that time when you're teaching what may as well be a new game but you'll reap the benefits further down the line because other teams just don't know how to defend against something they're not used to.

It was the same at Leinster when myself and Matt Williams were there, the players had to be taught to offload but when it clicked they were so hard to deal with.

There was probably a legacy of that in the years that followed.

It may take a while for us to see it for Ireland at World Cups but it's the only way we're going to succeed in my opinion.

Get the kids playing the right way and, in 10 to 15 years, you have the professionals playing the right way.

Ireland for 2031?

Ireland may not be there but we've two unbelievable games to look forward to this weekend.

South Africa have put that early shock against Japan behind them, and have the power to get at the All Blacks, but it's so hard to look past New Zealand on current form.

France were truly woeful at the weekend but New Zealand just tore them to shreds. At every ruck they're looking for the space and looking to score, it's a relentless attack that's tough for anyone to stop.

I'd love to see Argentina get to the final but I think Australia will edge Sunday's game.

They probably had their own 'Japan Moment' against Scotland last week and came out flat after two really tough games on the bounce but I think they'll be back to their best for the semis.

It's been a shame to see what's been happening with Craig Joubert over the last week.

The South African is, and always has been, a terrific referee for my money but he made a mistake.

The thing is, of course, Scotland made a good few themselves in those final minutes.

I'm sure Joubert will hold his hands up, and Scotland can be proud of their performance, but it can't all come down to the referee.

Belfast Telegraph

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