Real World Problems and the All Blacks

The Irish rugby team will face its ultimate ‘real world problem’ when it faces the mighty New Zealand in Soldier Field next week. The Irish team will include lads who have been playing rugby since they were young kids and who have developed over the years to become highly talented professionals.

So how did they make this transition from enthusiastic youngster to skilled professional? In school or in their club, they will have developed basics skills; passing, kicking, catching, tackling, positional sense etc. They will also have worked hard on their strength and conditioning. Depending on their body type, they will have become backs or forwards. Backs will have worked on their speed and agility and begun to practice ‘moves’ with their fellow backs. Forwards will train to become even stronger and, along with their fellow forwards, they will have practiced scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls.

As professionals they will continue to do all these things and even though they are full time rugby players, only a tiny proportion of their time will be spent playing 15-a-side, full contact rugby.

As the Irish team faces up to the ‘real world’ challenge of the All Blacks, they won’t be preparing by playing 15-a-side matches against All Black-like teams. Their preparation won’t mimic the ‘real world’ of the actual match itself. No, it’ll involve all of those drills and routines that rugby players all over the world do routinely. Of course particular tactics will be devised in the hope that we might finally beat New Zealand at their national sport. Sadly the likelihood is that New Zealand, whose players tend to have slightly better individual skills, will probably beat us; but you never know.

The world of education can learn a lot from sport. To be able to solve ‘real world problems’ you don’t have to spend all your time trying to solve real world problems. In fact, most of your time needs to be spent developing the tools you will need to solve those same problems. Without those tools, you haven’t a hope.



About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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