“I’m not sure that getting advice from us is what you should be doing,” came the reply. The Japanese running and ball- handling gave them a real shock and though Ireland pulled away to win 50-28, an upset looked a real possibility for much of the game. In the press conference afterwards, a Japanese journalist asked Gerry Murphy how Japanese rugby could improve. Afterwards, however, Colin Meads, the former All Black captain, gave them cause for reflection.
Interviewed with Gerry Murphy, Meads was asked if he thought Ireland would reach the quarter- finals. Certainly, he said, if they continue to perform as effectively. But, he asked, touching on the perennial Irish problem of inconsistency, can they play like that again?On Wednesday, they didn’t. Against Japan, everything that was good about the All Blacks game was gone; the two performances could hardly have been more different. Even though they lost 43-19 to the All Blacks, they left the field with their spirits raised. In the early exchanges, the Irish were at their ferocious, furious best, and went on to score three tries and their well-organised pack managed even managed to disrupt the vaunted All Blacks. The backs were really motoring and handling the ball beautifully.”Five days later, it paid off.
“We trained for an hour,” Murphy said, “and I don’t think we dropped a ball once. It was very good, very high-powered and everyone came off the field thinking, ‘Jesus, we can actually do this.’ The same thing happened on our first Monday-night practice in Johannesburg For about 20 minutes, it clicked again. If we’re making mistakes in training, he’ll be the one who says: ‘Come on, lads, this is rubbish. We’ll do this properly.’ And Neil Francis is good like that, too.” On the fourth day at Kilkenny, the players suddenly turned it on.