In the round of post-match interviews yesterday evening, Sinéad Kissane of TV3 asked Eddie O’Sullivan if he would be considering his position in light of Ireland’s early exit from the tournament. O’Sullivan looked taken aback by the directness of the question and mumbled “Er, no” twice.
Addition, 02 October: It was inevitable that the clip would make it to YouTube at some point.
[via Damien Mulley]
The clip was shown on Setanta as well, and former Leinster and Scotland coach Matt Williams expressed disbelief at the audacity of Sinéad Kissane in asking such a question.
Fair play to her. It’s the question nearly every Irish rugby supporter is asking. Look at what happened in Wales. They were beaten by Fiji on Saturday, and as soon as they arrived home, Gareth Jenkins walked the plank.
Before the tournament got underway, the IRFU took the bizarre step of renewing O’Sullivan’s contract up to 2012. This meant that O’Sullivan could face the tournament safe in the knowledge that his job was secure no matter what happened. In the light of what has come to pass over the last four weeks, this decision by the IRFU now raises a number of questions.
First of all did O’Sullivan know the game was up for the irish team? Given that Ireland’s last win over France was in the spring before the 2003 World Cup, and that Argentina comprehensively dispatched Ireland during the summer, maybe O’Sullivan knew in his heart and soul that Ireland would have no hope of beating either of them in the pool stages. Did he convince his über-meisters in Lansdowne Road that all was in fact well and that qualification was in the bag, and then sent his people in to talk to their people to work out a deal? Who has he lined up to take the fall? As Neil Francis said on Setanta after the match, O’Sullivan is quick to point the finger at others in the room when a stink emerges, even if it was he who ate all the beans. Francis reckoned that defence coach Graham Steadman and forwards coach Niall O’Donovan had better watch their backs.
The IRFU have painted themselves into a corner, because O’Sullivan’s contract is binding and to get rid of him would mean having to pay him off. That O’Sullivan should go is beyond question. He’s the man in charge of the team, and the buck stops with him. It’s the responsibility of the players to bring their individual talents to the squad, and the coach’s responsibility to get the best out of them. That hasn’t happened, as there is precious little competition for places, and the same core of players start game after game, even if they haven’t been playing well. Ciaran Cronin wrote a lengthy piece in The Sunday Tribune last week about O’Sullivan’s regime, and it’s well worth a read. (Apologies in advance if that link doesn’t work, as the Turbine’s news site can be very flaky at times.)
But this goes beyond what has happened in France over the last few weeks. Eddie O’Sullivan has been blessed with the best group of Irish players to emerge as a squad for generations, and he has nothing to show for it. Triple Crowns are just bragging rights, not championships. Ireland last won the Five Nations in 1985 and the Grand Slam in 1948. O’Sullivan has had five years to put that right, and has failed to do so. He should go, and go now so that a new coach can be in place by the time the preparation for the Six Nations starts.
But a few more heads should roll too, especially those in the IRFU that renewed O’Sullivan’s contract.