Saturday, 3 March 2007

Ireland Vs England

Ireland vs England

A classic match and some great examples of classic strategy. Strategy isn’t just about what happens on the field it is about the whole picture. So this includes leadership, organisational structure, planning/preparation and leveraging your environment. I feel these areas of strategy had a big impact on the game as much as the on field action.

Leadership. Brain Ashton and Phil Vickery has only just taken over and the team is only just beginning to gel. In comparison to the length and strength of the Irish leadership that has been running for the last few years. I am not saying that the English guys are bad leaders they just haven’t had the team to make an impact yet. Plus captain of country but not at club is an interesting situation.

Organisational Structure. Basically we are talking about the whole club vs country row the structure of who has overall control of the English players. Plus what does Rob Andrew actually do? Who is in charge?

Preparation. Strategy texts state that battles are not won on the field, but in the HQ. In other words the planning and preparation is everything without them you are at an extreme disadvantage. This comes back to the club vs country row with the English players only having 2 training session prior to the game. This in comparison to the Irish whom with their central contracts had 2 weeks preparation time.

Leveraging your environment: It was an historic day with England playing at Croke park and the Irish players and crowd were sweating pure passion, and demanding a victory over the English. Strategy says to choose the were, the when of a battle and use the climate to your advantage. Games venues and times are obviously decided in advance, but home games are a definite advantage. With the home game you can set up the pitch to your style of play and you know the dimensions and markers around the pitch you can use them to gauge your position. You also know the ground and will feel at home giving you one less worry on the day. An example in football is Real Madrid whom like to put a small layer of water on the pitch as it helps a quicker passing game. The crowd can also motivate your side and de-motivate the opposition. The added historical importance of the day also had a huge impact ensuring the Irish players and crowd were pumped up for the match. In comparison the English players had been given history lessons into the tragic events that had happened at the site. This was bound to have positive impact for the Irish and a negative impact on the English players.

All this before the game has even kicked off, makes you realize the power of strategy when so much can be done in advance to achieve your mission.

Now finally the game itself.

England lost the competition in the forwards and at the breakdowns. Everyone has already said this, so it isn't much of a surprise. You basically can't win the game if you haven't got the ball. The Irish turned us over and slowed us down at the breakdown slowing down our momentum or swinging the momentum to their favour. We need a more mobile pack to compete at the break downs and support the players making the breaks. "Move out of old positions slowly and into new positions quickly" Art of War by Sun Tzu. You need to consider your defence when you attack. In this case the players behind the player making the break need to provide that defence by providing support to the player at the breakdown ,or to keep the move going by taking the pass and ensuring momentum is retained.

Now the backs didn't really get much of a go with the ball especially on a wet day and with poor ball. Like I said the momentum had been lost and the Irish defensive line re-established, meaning the English players were starting all over again ever time trying to break through a organised defense. Mr Austin Healey pointed at that Andy Farral wasn't keeping to the defensive patterns allowing the gaps to appear meaning the Irish could take advantage. I think he needs some more experience, so playing for the Saxons for the rest of the games may be a good idea. Just like the pack we need speed in our backs, as speed, momentum and surprise are essentials of a good attack. So at centre Matthew Tait could answer this need for speed, plus he can now tackle.
I will write a more detailed blog prior to the French game about what I think we need to change in the England side to stand a chance of victory over the French.

An interesting result the week before was Ireland A 0 - England Saxons 32.
This goes to show the differences in the depth in squads between the two countries. Also I don't believe many of the Irish A players have central contracts so probably only had the same preparation time as the England Saxon side. This gave our players a more level playing field when encountering their Irish counterparts.

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