A sluggish performance takes us all back down to earth, writes Ciaran Duffy
I’ll keep this one short because between the sunburn in the first half and getting soaked in the second half, this is a day I’d like to forget. Craig Joubert did make some questionable decisions, which ultimately did have an impact on the scoreboard, but let’s not get hung up on that. The last warm-up before the squad announcement is all about the performance.
Wales were better at the breakdown and their front five dominated proceedings. It was nothing special by the Welsh, but they did the simple things well and were more efficient with the ball. Ireland were turned over too often and only had brief moments of attack going forward. It was hard to judge Irelands attacking performance because they didn’t do it often enough. It was mostly defensive duties for Ireland, and the defence will need to be worked on. Wales were able to get through fairly easily without having to resort to anything too creative. It was a rusty performance, which may have been understandable if it was the first warm-up, but it’s concerning considering this was the third game in four weeks.
There were some injury concerns for Ireland as well. Earls didn’t move after putting in a big tackle. He was eventually stretchered off after a long delay. With his acceleration and recent performances he had worked his way into contention. But that injury looked serious and he may be out for the tournament now. Strauss rolled his ankle in the second half, but he will likely still be in the team as a third hooker. Luke Fitzgerald also picked up an injury. This will cast doubt over his selection, not because of the severity of the injury, but because of the frequencies of his injuries. Schmidt might consider other options because of that risk.
Another cause of concern was Paddy Jacksons performance. When he came on for Sexton he was unable to control the game. Soon after coming on he looked for a drop goal. It was never on and the ball was charged down, resulting in Ireland losing good attacking territory. This may have been Jackson trying to take the game by the scruff of the neck and impress the coach, but a cool head is necessary in a tight game and he didn’t show that. Madigan is surely the number two now, with Jackson likely to be there too.
Despite the poor overall team performance some players did stake their claim to a seat on the plane. Henshaw carried the ball well at times. Dave Kearney always looked threatening on the wing but wasn’t given the opportunity to attack often enough. Playing well in a game where the overall team performance was poor will really boost his chances. Above all Iain Henderson put in a big performance which presents an argument for him not just being in the squad, but starting. Although he does not bring what Devin Toner does to the lineout, the way he charged over the line for a try at a crucial period in the game showed his value to the team.
A poor performance, but one we will possibly look back on as a blessing in disguise if it proves to be the kick up the backside we may need to get it right for the World Cup. Teams who win often can get comfortable in their ways, and its better this happen now than on a more important occasion. I don’t think anyone performed themselves out of the squad, but there were a few who may have gotten themselves a place.
Ciarán Duffy (@VoiceQuakeDuffy) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously. He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.
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