Stand-in Ireland forwards coach, Anthony Foley, says everyone involved with the team is sick and tired of having to put up with poor refereeing.
The incorrect decision to penalise Stephen Ferris in the final minute against Wales cost Ireland victory in their first Six Nations match, while head coach Declan Kidney admitted he was “disgusted” with the penalty count in the game against France.
The Irish management team were also unhappy rookie referee, Chris Pollock, during Saturday’s victory over Scotland, so Foley believes it’s high time Ireland were given fair play by match officials.
“We don’t want to go around with victim written on our foreheads, but it does get frustrating,” he admits. “If we just get the clear and obvious penalties, we’d be happy with that.
“In the lineout we lost against Scotland there was a clear penalty for us because Jamie Heaslip was pushed in the back. Everyone can see it, apart from the man with the whistle in his hand, and that cost us three points.
“And in the Tommy Bowe incident, if he’s ruled to be in a dead-ball area and off the field, then it’s a scrum to us because he doesn’t have to release the ball. But if he’s deemed to be on the field of play then it’s a penalty to us because he’s been tackled and the tackler hasn’t released him, yet instead we get penalised.
“If they could just get the clear and obvious decisions right, never mind the 50-50 ones, we’d be happy.”
Foley knows Ireland can’t afford to be on the wrong side of the referee in Twickenham on Saturday because, even with a level playing field, the in-form English will present a serious challenge. There would be nothing sweeter than putting one over the ‘auld enemy’ on St Patrick’s Day, but Foley says sentiment or emotion won’t be nearly enough on its own to beat a team on a high after Sunday’s win over France in Paris.
“When you go to Twickenham, the most important thing is your right to play,” he says. “You don’t want to go there thinking that because it’s Paddy’s Day, you have a right to win.
“You have to go there and make sure you win a rugby match. You have to make sure your set-piece is functioning, you’re looking after the ball and your discipline is right. You’ve seen how Farrell has been playing for them — he’ll kick it from anywhere. You’ve seen their scrum and lineout — if you back away from it, you’ll be in trouble. We just need to go there, be ourselves, and make sure that we function as a unit.
“England have beaten France in Paris which is a massive achievement. They’re a young side and coming to grips with international rugby.
“They’ll be favourites. We’re going to their back garden, and we just have to make sure that we’re right to play and give it 100%.”
One player you can always count on to give every last drop of sweat he has is hard-working lock, Donnacha Ryan, who had a superb match against Scotland on Saturday.
He was so effective in the loose and authoritative in the lineout that Paul O’Connell was scarcely missed, but Foley says Ryan has now earned the right to no longer be compared to the Irish skipper.
“He made his own calls and backed himself to the highest degree. It was a Donnacha Ryan performance and now people can start looking at Donnacha and say that’s what we expect out of him. He’s not a shadow of anyone else.
“He’s a Tipperary hurler who goes around with ankle socks at times, so he’s a bit different! He carries himself very well though and he’s a fella that other guys can go to because he has a good maturity about him.”
Ryan only took up rugby at age 17 to improve fitness for his first sporting love — hurling — so it was probably always going to take time to mature. Now 28, he’s finally blossomed into a genuinely world-class rugby player.
“It’s been hard for him because of what’s in front of him,” says Foley.
“When Paulie and Donncha O’Callaghan broke through at Munster they took over from Mick Galwey and John Langford after having had a frustrating time waiting behind them.
“So when you get in there, you have to make sure you stay in there. That’s what Donnacha’s trying to lay down — make it hard to have anyone picked ahead of him. If you have that mentality and have earned the right to play through persistence and performance, then you appreciate it and do everything in your power to stay in there.”
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