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Defeat to Argentina shows that Ireland are no where near top dogs

By Neil Francis

We have been disappointed so many times that not giving a damn anymore is almost a reflex response. Ireland's aspirations in this competition are but a vapour.

If you were left scratching your head about why the New Zealand vs France game went the way it did, you might have a better idea about what happened yesterday afternoon.

France are a team in a state of chassis with a coach who knows as much about coaching a team as Inspector Clouseau.

New Zealand played with calm authority. They trusted their skill levels and humiliated France. You could not accuse France of underperforming because they simply played to their level.

Yesterday was a huge under-performance from Ireland, played within the constraints of a pretty stolid, one-dimensional game-plan.

A sanitised version of the game which was easily read and exploited ruthlessly by Argentina, who took chances and revelled in their ability to attack Ireland where they saw weakness.

Such was the natural authority in their play that the 43 points scored didn't do justice to their audacity.

All the key performance indicators in Ireland's underachievement yesterday came to a fore - they looked tired, they lacked sharpness, they got off to a very slow start, they looked like a very limited side, and played like one too.

All the units within the team were some way short of their normal levels.

To win yesterday Ireland would have had to have played well and with confidence but they played well within themselves, and they played as if they did not believe they could win.

Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction, and Ireland also lacked the key characteristics that have seen them being successful over the last few years - resilience, intelligent understanding of how to play the game, and when all else fails you, aggression is something that has bailed Ireland out on many occasions.

I would say that if you compare the figures in the weights room, Ireland are probably able to dead-lift, clean and jerk and bench-press far heavier weights.

Yet the Pumas bossed them physically and every time an Argentinian player - even some of their smaller threequarters - got on the ball, they managed to gain-line and physically impose themselves on their would be tacklers.

This is also symptomatic of an under-performance.

You might ask the question how did we become Six Nations champions two years in a row, and my answer would be that the Six Nations Championship is second division.

Argentina were larcenously competitive in every sector but particularly at scrum time and at the breakdown.

How is it that Argentina looked so sharp? How is it that their footwork and their passing were light years ahead of what Ireland could achieve?

If Ireland had performed even to a percentage of where we expected them to be most of us would have gone away happy.

This burden, this plague, this lack of responsibility for the occasion is absolutely damning.

Don't talk to me about four-year cycles or preparing a team for the next World Cup - we should be happy just to play in the second division and expect nothing else because that is that is what we deserve.

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