Former Munster and international back rower Alan Quinlan believes that Ireland can learn a lot of lessons from what happened in the build-up to the 2007 World Cup as they prepare for this season’s tournament.
Ireland went to France eight years ago with huge expectations after winning the Triple Crown but their bid for glory never got off the ground.
And with Joe Schmidt’s men heading to England and Wales on a high, after retaining the Six Nations, Quinlan said it is vital that they learn from what happened before.
“Hindsight is wonderful but you can and must learn from things. There was a lot of expectation ahead of the 2007 World Cup but the campaign just never got off the ground.
“Looking back, I think the damage was done during the build-up to the tournament. Every effort was put into it and there was no reason to be concerned in the build-up to the tournament,” said Quinlan.
Quinlan ended up becoming one of four players — Brian Carney, Bryan Young and Stephen Ferris were the others — who did not see a single minute of action at the tournament, as Eddie O’Sullivan tried to stick to the same side.
‘The Bordeaux Four’ had expected to be drafted in along with others for the second game against Georgia, but a poor opening 32-17 win over Namibia set the alarm bells ringing and O’Sullivan decided to go more or less with the same side.
But that had been a feature long before the World Cup, with the starting 15 kept at home for a summer tour to Argentina.
“There was a split, no doubt about that. The starting side stayed at home and the 30 or so of us who went to Argentina knew that we were playing for the other 15 spots.
“In fairness, you could see some of the reasoning behind that move but it didn’t work out. You had 30 lads battling it out in Argentina knowing that half is all that would make the squad and then would be second to the main starting side.
“It did lead to a divide, although nobody necessarily thought that at the time. We were all after a long and hard season and you could see merit in resting players but, in hindsight, that didn’t work out,” said Quinlan, who turned 41 yesterday.
Quinlan, like the others, was delighted to make the cut, and preparations began in earnest for the tournament but the Tipperary man said that for some reason, Ireland just never got the spark into what they were doing.
“Again, hindsight is great but I just felt we had the boots on too long that summer, we were playing too much rugby. The warning bells should have gone off when we struggled to beat Italy in Belfast, we just did not play well,” added Quinlan, who made his debut at the 1999 World Cup off the bench against Romania and who won the last of his 27 caps against the All Blacks in November 2008.
Ireland’s hotel base on the outskirts of Bordeaux did little to help the mood in the camp and it was obvious when they struggled to beat Namibia in Bordeaux that it just wasn’t going to happen.
“It was very frustrating, especially for those of us who didn’t get game-time. But we remained positive and did our bit and the mood in the camp was good.
“I know we heard all sorts of things afterwards but they just weren’t true. The reality is that if there was trouble in the camp, it would have come out after the tournament.
“The hotel was fine, it was just where it was located, in an industrial area. We were looking at other teams staying by the beach and all that sort of thing, and it can have an impact.
“The likes of Paul O’Connell and Rory Best will remember that tournament and will work to ensure the whole preparation is better this time.
“Things have moved on, that was eight years ago and Ireland and everyone else has learned a lot and I’m sure that Joe Schmidt and the others will take on board what happened at previous tournaments.
“We would have been confident going into the 2007 tournament, everyone worked extremely hard but it just didn’t happen for us.
“There is huge expectation this time round again but Ireland have shown by the way they retained the Six Nations that they can handle that,” added Quinlan.
Alan Quinlan, an ambassador for Topaz, was speaking at the official opening of Tipperary Town Plaza which includes motorway services, rest stops and food court.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved