Denis Hickie – Part II: Rugby World Cup Momentum And Developing The Game
In Part II of Denis Hickie’s exclusive interview with Lineout Coach, Hickie discusses the importance of getting off to a good start, building tournament momentum and the uphill struggles for developing rugby nations.
LOC – Would you agree that building a winning momentum going into a Rugby World Cup is very important? Do you think the confidence of the Irish team has been affected by the warm up games?
DENIS HICKIE – Confidence is good in the camp and the warm up matches were vital for Ireland. We know the games did not go our way but the intensity of those fixtures will stand Ireland in good stead at the World Cup. In 2007 the Irish squad played three warm up games but the game against Bayonne lacked intensity and this contributed to our downfall. Declan Kidney has ensured that would not be the case this time and given all the members of his squad some decent game time. I feel that Ireland are much better prepared for the World Cup now then we were in 2007. If the squad can learn from disappointments in the past, then they will not have been in vain.
Building momentum is really important. It would be great to go into a World Cup with four wins out of four games and confidence high. Although, that can bring it’s own challenges too. It is very important to remember that this is a tournament. Building momentum in a World Cup, starts at the World Cup, not before. Ireland will not be thinking of anything other than getting out of their group. This means that they can start building momentum against U.S.A. by playing well, making sure their set piece and defensive system is functioning as they want it to and by getting their multi-phase game going. If the things they have been working on in training come together, then Ireland will start building momentum and confidence.
If Ireland put in a good performance against U.S.A., their confidence will be up for the all important game against Australia. The Australian game is seen as the crunch game of the group and Ireland will have their work cut out for them against the newly crowned Tri-Nations Champions, but, once a team gets off to a good start in a World Cup anything can happen. Look at England for example, they came third in the Six Nations Championship in 2007, played poorly in their warm-up games and then went all the way to the World Cup Final. They did that by developing a strong bond, a tournament mentality and by taking the competition one game at a time. England boast a great history in the World Cup and it is partly to do with their approach and mindset.
We see examples of tournament momentum happening in soccer world cups all the time. More often than not, a “weaker” nation ends up having a really good cup run. They get on a roll by winning their first game. Then they could go on to beat a big team, the weather could have an impact or a referee decision could help them and all of a sudden, their confidence is brimming. That’s the beauty of the World Cup and that’s what everyone loves about the tournament, it’s unpredictable. In 2003, Ireland came within a whisker of beating Australia. If Ireland won that, they would have played Scotland in the quarter final. If they won that, all of a sudden Ireland are in a World Cup semi final! Anything can happen.
LOC – I read an article from U.S.A. CEO Nigel Melville (here) which stated the difficult World Cup fixture list some of the developing rugby nations are faced with. Surely that does not help with the growth of the game?
DENIS HICKIE – There is a long history of the Rugby World Cup fixture list stacked in favour of some teams. Bizarrely, it seems that the teams who have strength in depth and all the resources at their disposal are the teams who are given the most recovery days. Those teams that could really do with more time together, more strength in depth within their squad and more recovery days between games are the nations who get the short straw. Very validly, Argentina have raised this issue with the International Rugby Board (I.R.B.) during their last three Rugby World Cup campaigns. The fixture lists during each World Cup has been very tough on them compared to say, Ireland’s fixtures. One extra recovery day makes a huge amount of difference in these types of tournaments. It is obviously unfair that the odds are stacked against the developing rugby nations with these fixture lists. How is the World Cup meant to showcase global rugby by putting teams that badly need as much help as they can get, under severe pressure? It doesn’t make sense.
Denis Hickie – Exclusive Interview
Part III: Denis Hickie answers your Twitter questions.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com #busy