- Lifestyle & Sports
- 17 Dec 19
It was an inglorious end to the Schmidt era...
In the pantheon of Irish Rugby World Cup disasters, 2019 has to rank near the top. At the start of the year, everything seemed perfectly positioned. The previous 12 months had seen us win a Six Nations Grand Slam, as well as achieving historic wins over Australia and New Zealand.
Johnny Sexton had been crowned World Player of the Year, and for good measure, Leinster were reigning European Champions. Surely, we swore to ourselves, this would be the breakthrough year. Oh dear.
The alarm bells that sounded during a patchy Six Nations became deafening after a pre-World Cup annihilation by England in Twickenham. Despite a decent opening win against Scotland, the shaky confidence of Joe Schmidt’s charges was irreparably dented when Japan powered to a shock 19-12 win on September 28.
The country’s sizeable anti-rugby fraternity had a field day, and D4 went into collective mourning, as we grappled with the fallout from what – if there’s any justice – will be known to posterity as “the Fuck-Up in Fukuroi”. A dazed Ireland stumbled through the group stages, though it only proved a stay of execution. We suffered another mauling by the All Blacks, who – adding to the indignity – were themselves dumped out in the semi-final by England.
It was an inglorious end to the Schmidt era.