Bernard Jackman: Pressure on players now to make good decisions

When Rory Best blamed Joe Schmidt for taking too much control in 2019 — he inadvertently heaped pressure on the class of 2020. With the Kiwi out of the loop now that excuse no longer exists.

Bernard Jackman: Pressure on players now to make good decisions

When Rory Best blamed Joe Schmidt for taking too much control in 2019 — he inadvertently heaped pressure on the class of 2020.

With the Kiwi out of the loop now, having — like Best — retired after the disappointment of Japan, that excuse no longer exists.

Andy Farrell, Schmidt’s former deputy, is now the sheriff, and Mike Catt the deputy in charge of helping the side to find their gunslinging skills all over again.

There’s little change in Farrell’s XV compared to a Schmidt selection, and now Bernard Jackman believes the players will have nobody to blame if things go pear-shaped again.

“There’s no point saying Joe put the handbrake on, part of being a world class player and leader is sensing that and stopping it,” said Jackman, part of RTÉ’s 2020 Six Nations coverage.

“The players have to step up and work on that. They worked well in 2018, and not in 2019... but there’s more than just one person to blame.

The players will have big regrets that they let things become the way they did in Japan, and they lost a major World Cup opportunity.

“Highly successful people are very good at moving on — but also, generally, they are good at reviewing something, understanding what happened, and learning from it, while not getting too hung up on it.

“It’s first stage at bootcamp for academy lads to learn to look ahead, but in saying that I’m not sure it’s 100% parked yet.

“There will be moments there over the next three-four years for players who will make it to the next World Cup, and they’ll think about what went wrong in Japan — and for fellas who don’t make it, it’ll always be there.

I heard Joe interviewed last Saturday night at an injured players event and I felt even his understanding is better than it was two months on, compared to how he spoke when he returned from Japan.

“So for the players, getting back to the provinces and seeing the mood there, they’ll understand it more now too and hopefully how to improve.”

Farrell is not the only change in the Ireland coaching set up, with Catt taking over as attack coach and Simon Easterby in charge of defence.

Winger Jacob Stockdale has spoken positively of the change in approach coming from the top, but Jackman warns it may take time to bed in — and says a new tactical approach may also put more pressure on players to perform.

“I don’t see Simon changing the Irish defence drastically unless Andy’s learned and wants it to be changed, but the attack will be interesting,” Jackman said.

“It’s all well and good saying we’ve more freedom, but that puts more pressure on the players in a roundabout way.

“If you speak to Munster lads, they’re over the moon with new attack coach (Stephen Larkham) but is it effective? Against Ulster away, it was one of the worst attacking performances I’ve seen — it certainly didn’t make them more dangerous.

“I believe attack takes longer to fix so that can take pain, they will need patience and while the Irish players will love positive feedback and a fresh voice — they will need to translate that into better, attacking rugby, and they’ll need to execute better on the pitch.

“In Japan our catch-pass was horrendous — we looked like a team with poor skills, but Irish players are very skillful, it just shows what can happen when pressure is on and the camp isn’t happy.

We had too many out of form players, playing, and when they’re not going well they look unskilful.

“The pressure is on the players now to make good decisions and if that comes off there’ll be praise all round.”

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