Former England and Lions star Jeremy Guscott has claimed provincial “rivalries and differences” have hampered Ireland from reaching their potential on the international stage.
Guscott, now a respected BBC analyst, issued a hard hitting appraisal of Joe Schmidt’s men following Sunday’s heartbreaking defeat to the All Blacks.
And he fears that some of the issues which cost Ireland victory at the weekend are symptomatic of more deep rooted problems.
Guscott told BBC.com: “I don’t believe the squad have been 100% behind the different coaches; the rivalries and differences between the provincial teams have somehow got in the way.”
The Lions legend also questioned the mental resolve of Irish players, especially in the dying minutes when they had the world champions on the rack.
“I don’t believe the Irish players as a group have all, at the same time, believed they are good enough most of the time.
When asked on a questions and answers forum how unlucky Ireland were in Dublin he replied: “Very unlucky would be the simple answer.”
But there was a caveat: “The tougher one would be Ireland shouldn’t have been unlucky, they should have won.
“Sport as we know can be both kind and cruel.
“Ireland had that game won, but in the position to win, the fear of losing gripped the team.
“New Zealand scored 17 unanswered points in the second half.
“The match was totally absorbing, the intention and commitment to play from both teams was a joy to watch.
“It has to be right up there for most people as one of the best games they’ve seen in recent times. I couldn’t have coped with any more drama, I was close to self-combustion as it was!”
However it isn’t all doom and gloom for Irish rugby, according to Stuart Barnes, who believes that the performance is a sign of good things to come under Schmidt. “While the rugby nation has to be feeling inconsolable there is plenty of positives for Ireland,” the Sky Sports pundit said.
“Joe Schmidt had his country playing at the pace his great Leinster teams employed. In contrast France, Italy and Scotland — in particular — were leaden. “If Ireland maintain that pace and precision, allied with the power of their Leinster ball carrying forwards, Schmidt will have them feasting at the peak of the European game very soon. This was the best European performance of the autumn by a mile.”
The bar for the Six Nations has been set by the Irish.”