There's a positive outlook for Irish rugby after our Grand Slam spoiling party in Dublin on Saturday. The English came to town with a swagger and we took them down a peg or two and were superior in every aspect of the game.
We stopped their world record run and everybody is happy again. But that wasn't the feeling around the country in the build up to the game. There was almost a sense of a nation let down after the defeat in Cardiff. In a year when Ireland have beaten South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and now England, the rugby watching public is understandably frustrated when this level of performance isn't repeated in every game.
Speaking on Newstalk's Off The Ball last night, Brian O'Driscoll was asked about the attitude of a lot of Irish sports fans in the build up to the game, and if we have unrealistic expectations over what we should expect from this team.
I found myself getting a bit angry on Paddy's Day, talking about how there's almost a perception of... Some lady met me getting on to a plane and said "Hey will you get those lads to do a bit of hard work this week?", and there was steam coming out of my ears.
We are a nation of five and a half or six million people. It's our fourth choice sport. And yet we're fourth in the world. God knows what the playing numbers are in England, or in New Zealand. Australia, I think they're still the fourth choice sport themselves, but for us to be a top seed for a pool in a World Cup in absolutely monumental.
It's an inadvertent compliment, the stick. You've got to look at it that way. It's hard to, but it absolutely is. Because now, no form of mediocrity or below par performance is acceptable.
Given all of that, and that rugby is the fourth choice sport in this country in terms of playing numbers, can Ireland realistically get any better than they are now?
We're not far off peaking out, we're really not.
Are we ever going to be at the consistent level of New Zealand? No we're not. I just don't think we are. Because I don't think fundamentally we have the groundwork done in our players. I don't think we've got the depth of players, I don't think we've the player numbers to be able to facilitate that level of competition and to drive the standards that high.
And unless we decide to give up our other sports, particularly Gaelic Football, and pool all those resources into rugby, I don't think we can ever get to that point. It's an obsessive point that they have down there. We don't have that. We love it, but we're not obsessed by rugby.
One argument is that the sporting public understand these limitations very well and realise the rarity of the current opportunity and would like to see the level of performance this team regularly reaches repeated on a more consistent basis. Either way, being ranked in the top 4 of the world is a brilliant achievement and should perhaps receive a little more acknowledgment than it currently does.
Another topic for O'Driscoll on last night's show was the subject of post tournament celebrations, or perhaps the lack thereof.
While yesterday there was news of the English team having a nice night in Dublin after Saturday's defeat, O'Driscoll was somewhat horrified to find out the fine rugby tradition of "Super Sunday" - the celebratory day that follows the end of the Six Nations - has become a "thing of the past" in the short time since his retirement.
I was on to one of the boys yesterday and I was asking was a Super Sunday on and he told me that Super Sundays were a thing of the past, which I was appalled to hear. I saw some of the boys heading off on holidays on Sunday. Ok fine, you get four or five days off, but Super Sundays are part of the release.
That whole getting together as a team and going out and really enjoying it... Because you don't get to enjoy the final night, out in town, no matter where you go. It's not you as a group going out together. That's why going to Keogh's into the snug, and just enjoying each other's company during the afternoon and having a few pints and having a laugh was some of the really great memories. I think back to some of the laughs we had.
So why did the current crop not indulge this year?
I don't know whether that's come with the new age or new breed... I can't imagine it's a coaching staff thing. I know Andy Farrell certainly is a man who likes a pint, and Joe knows to celebrate things at the right time. Granted it wasn't a Championship, but it doesn't matter. No matter how you do in a Six Nations, I think it's really important to pull it together and enjoy each other's company. Yeah. you've been living in each other's pocket, but enjoy it with the pressure off. Yeah, it is shame. I'm sure of them still met up, but not as a collective, not with lads staying up from down the country. It's a shame that's no a component.
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