February 11, 2017
Irelands slow start to the game against Scotland gave them a mountain to climb in the second half that was, in all reality, too much. It was an incredibly disappointing result from a side that promised so much following the Autumn Internationals. However the coaches and the players simply have to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again. And during the week Joe has mentioned the shortened warm up as being a major factor in the way that the side started the game. The media has, in the main, suggested that this means that Joe has been laying the blame for the performance at the door of the late arrival caused by the Scottish police taking the team bus on a different route to the one that was planned. But I don't think this is actually true at all.
First we need to examine whether there is any validity in the claims that the shortened warm up had any effect on the start that Ireland made. Personally I think it probably did. If you're late for anything that is important to you it will make you anxious or stressed. Imagine you're with a group of people en route to planning a party for a loved one. You have a number of jobs to do at the venue and you need and hour to do them all. Then you get caught in traffic and realise you won't make it in time to do everything. Most people will start to get stressed then. When you get to the venue you need to decide do you do everything half assed or do you decide to do some things and not others. What if someone else makes those decisions and you don't agree with them? And what if you're going to have thousands of people watching on? Very few of us would be immune to anxiety in that scenario. Yes they are professional rugby players, but they are human beings first. Some will be able to deal with that sort of thing better than others, but some will surely be impacted by the delay.
So if we assume that the cause of the slow start was in fact the shortened warm up then the reaction to that is incredibly important. There are always 2 ways that you can approach issues like this. The first is to externalise it. It was someone elses fault. In this case that would mean that it was the fault of the Scottish police for making the team late. The second is to internalise it. What can we do to better control the circumstances and/or the outcomes? In this case it is acknowledging that we need to be better at adapting to unforeseen circumstances like this.
The first reaction is an incredibly negative one. You end up blaming someone or something else and learning nothing, risking a repeat of the same issue in future. The second reaction is the one that you want people in charge to take. Identify the source of the issue and address is going forward in a positive and proactive way. And if you look at the statements Joe has come out with over the last week they have been about Ireland learning to be more adaptable to situations like this, not about making sure that the police in other countries doing what they are told. In fact when specifically asked about the bus route in Italy he dismissed the question. Ireland cannot completely control those things and are focusing on what they can control. Their reaction to the unexpected.
And Then The Media
Yet when Joe talks about the internal reaction to this the media have assumed that he has been laying the blame at the feet of the police and the route they took. Ruaidhri O'Connor wrote an article saying that Joe was leaving himself open to accusations of a lack of introspection after Joe spoke about nothing but the team and their ability to adapt to situations beyond their control. Quite how someone can lack introspection while talking about themselves and their actions I don't know. It seems that the presses need to allocate blame is being transferred here onto the coach.
And this is something that has shown up clearly in the last week. The need to allocate blame, to point the finger and to get angry at someone. It's a natural reaction, but not a productive one. Ireland have a chance to get their campaign back on track today. They were taught a valuable lesson last week and need to take what they can from that to ensure they don't find themselves in that position again. Let's look forward and not backwards.