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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 9, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

    New methods of scoring tries required

    Gavin Cummiskey

    Having forced myself to sit through the South Africa game for a second time, after a peaceful night’s sleep, a few more, eh, issues became apparent.

    Ireland seemed mired between the way they used to play (it was a different sport in 2009) while striving to replicate how New Zealand and Australia have embraced the ball retention philosophy now essential under the new tackle interpretations.

    The result was a string of disheartening handling errors or aimless kicking that indicated an absentee game-plan. But this team rarely start an international window with a top drawer performance. They almost seem to need a bad outing to focus the collective mind.

    That it required the arrival of Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer, and an immediate increase in tempo, sees the pair rewarded with run on caps against Samoa.

    This can be interpreted as a backward step but the wise old Cork halfbacks deserve their recall.

    So does The Cappamore forklift John Hayes (for now anyway).

    If O’Gara started last Saturday, the Springboks would have been ready for his trademark cross-field punt in Tommy Bowe’s direction. The kick pass is a long established O’Gara weapon and has yielded several iconic tries (Remember Cardiff in the Grand Slam match and Shane Horgan’s Gaelic football leap at Croke Park in 2007).

    It caught out the inexperienced fullback Gio Aplon but the Springboks had long since checked out of a contest they were leading 23-9.

    If the Samoans have done their homework, this well worn tactic won’t work again on Saturday thus forcing Ireland to come up with a new way of gathering tries.

    Surely this team is capable of scoring off a patient build-up after clocking up multiple-phases, with patterns and running angles maintained, as opposed to the pick and drive white line fever we see so often?

    The composure Australia showed to eventually break down the All Blacks in Hong Kong two weeks ago is the perfect example.

    With this in mind, the most positive selection is Luke Fitzgerald getting an opportunity to prove he is a viable alternative at fullback to Rob Kearney or Geordan Murphy (honourable mention for Gavin Duffy, who seems incapable of a bad game these days).

    Looking back at the Springbok disaster (let’s not fool ourselves: the final score was a testimony to a courageous late burst aided by Peter de Villiers’ misguided tactical substitutions), Fitzgerald was the most proactive Irish back until the wheels fell off with Juan Smith’s intercept try, quickly followed by the weather ruining any chance of an expansive approach.

    Fitzgerald seemed to grasp the need to speed up Ireland’s counter attacking style. This Saturday he will be perfectly positioned to demand quick lineouts are fired in his direction by Bowe or Andrew Trimble.

    His natural spatial awareness makes his run at fullback imperative, what with Kearney injured and Murphy on Leicester Tigers duty.

    Presumably, he will be launched off Brian O’Driscoll’s shoulder at every opportunity. And not just from set moves.

    This is not a call for Kearney to be dropped but should Fitzgerald show the value of offloading out of the tackle then Kearney will be forced to respond in a similar fashion.

    Elsewhere, Ireland’s best three players at the moment – Jamie Heaslip, Bowe and O’Driscoll – are retained to ensure a measure of solidity as other, more problematic, positions are examined.

    The best news this week is Paul O’Connell’s small steps towards fitness are continuing just as the leading candidate to eventually replace him in the long term gets his maiden cap.

    Devin Toner, and Seán Cronin at hooker, must fix the mess that is the Irish lineout. These two represent the future so hopefully they can show us the years ahead will not be too bleak.

    John Hayes’ return at the expense of Mike Ross can easily be seen as needless loyalty but we imagine Toner isn’t complaining. O’Connell freely admits his reputation as one of the best lineout jumpers in world rugby is largely due to Hayes’s lifting abilities.

    Another pleasing selection is Seán O’Brien. The hard man from the midlands is set for a long and distinguished career in the Irish backrow. He has improved his handling skills in recent months (see the flip pass for O’Driscoll’s try against Munster), making him the natural heir to the number seven jersey when the 34-year-old David Wallace finally hangs up his boots.

    Other interesting calls?

    Paddy Wallace is a natural play-maker, armed with a wealth of experience, who can provide an ideal link between O’Gara and those out wide. Denis Leamy was once on the road to becoming one of the great Irish flankers. Injury derailed him. Here he comes again.

    All this should be enough to keep the public interested, whether you watch matters from the sanctity of your living room, your local clubhouse (with an AIL game out the window) or maybe even the stadium itself!

    How much are those tickets again?

    • orieldude says:

      “Surely this team is capable of scoring off a patient build-up after clocking up multiple-phases”

      What’s that based on? When has that ever happened in a game that mattered?

      “…quickly followed by the weather ruining any chance of an expansive approach”

      Oh yes – the weather. Who could have predicted the weather in Ireland in November would not be conducive to the ‘expansive approach’?

    • Peter Campbell says:

      If Ireland are to have a respectable season, they will need to ensure that Healy and Buckley, both good in the loose, learn to scrummage. Too often Buckley is gotten under by his opposite number and popped up out of the scrum.
      Without a stable front row the pack will be decimated and the rest of the team will suffer as a consequence.

    • Larry says:

      Agree with orieldude. Ireland have not shown the ability to string multiple passes together in big games. 10 changes is a huge shift in the team and could be difficult to step up from there. The weather can not be an issue at all, dont think it will be too balmy at the weekend, it should be our advantage actually.
      Love O’Gara but believe Sexton should have got the start again with a different scrum half inside. Disagree re paddy Wallace, think he just wont have the size and will be split open again and will he really be in contention come world cup, not sure.
      Its hard to see if there are punishment change here or just rotation, I guess the All Blacks will show a more core team. Lets see how good the squad depth is at the weekend.

    • Gareth says:

      The South Africa game has hopefully given everyone involved with Irish rugby (both on and off the pitch) the impetus to change a number of things that at present don’t work. Looking at the team for Samoa, it represents a fair blend of new and old, allowing the less experienced members of the squad a chance to shine whilst having support from senior squad members. Make no mistake, DK is aware the pressure is on and nothing less than a convincing win (more than 15-20 point imo) will help to alleviate that pressure. I think the right team has been picked and a good result will be achieved on Saturday.

      I also hope Ireland continue to play running rugby rather than reverting to the old kick to touch style as, unfortunately, that will get us nowhere come the World Cup next year.

    • part time punk says:

      Agree with a lot of what you say. Would be nice to think that Kearney could up his game to adjust better to the new rules but I don’t know if he has it in him. (I hope I’m proved wrong) Watching him run into tackles and get swallowed up without offloading is depressing. Also hope we do try and take more quick lineouts in our own half, we do it so little compared to the likes of NZ and Oz but with the likes of Bowe, Fitz, Earls or Trimble we should be able to give it a go. Glad Wallace is getting a run out, very under-rated player imo. But I think BOD should be rested and someone else tried out at no. 13, if we can’t do it now then we never will. Glad to see Leamy getting a run out, as he’s on good form recently and well deserved place for Sean O’Brien. But a fit and on form Ferris would be straight back into the first choice 15.

    • paul m says:

      I’m just still amazed at the level of pressure being exerted on the Irish squad by the media and people in general for what is the formative beginning of this years season. All the provinces have had a mixed bag start to the provincial, magners and heineken cup but have just about found their feet. Various reasons for this including injuries, change of coach, new players coming in, etc. Add to that the rule changes are only coming to light that it is once again not based on a black and white understanding but more about playing the ref. There’s a lot to be taken on from the start.

      The autumn internationals regardless of the result should be seen as nothing more than a trial of combinations and variations and new emerging partnerships in areas that were once a staple of the Ireland success and will now see a changing of the guard – lineout jumpers, front row, centres. Hopefully along the way some glimpses of entertaining rugby. I can understand peoples frustration at paying high prices for match tickets and being rewarded with a poor performance but that lies more at the feet of the IRFU than the team. I’m sure Kidney has set out his stall with regard to what he’s trying to achieve in these games with the management so they’re more than aware the games wont be like autumn friendlies of before – field the usual 15, play great rugby but then get left short down the line as an opportunity was missed to test new things.

      I’d hate to see an english media style of pressure that all to often rears its head if results arent instantaneous, calling for the coaches head, etc. We’re better than that. If we’re not performing in the six nations this year then yeah sure there’s real concern but at this early stage lets not get worried. Its a long and busy season to the World Cup and if we can make it there without any injuries to the squad i’ll be delighted. Oh and no cryotherapy chambers this time please lads. Allez les verts!

    • gerry says:

      “Ireland’s best three players at the moment – Jamie Heaslip, Bowe and O’Driscoll.”

      If O’Driscoll is one of Ireland’s 3 best players, God help us. He is way off form/injured/whatever and hasn’t been playing well for over a year. Heaslip was fairly quiet on Saturday too, and how could you consider his form against NZ, the last international he played, to be good?

      I think O’Driscoll is suffering with the new interpretations of the tackle laws (having to release the tackled player) and his ability to turn over ball. His defense is still top notch though, but he isn’t able to turnover ball like he once could. He needs to reinvent himself again.

      With regard to Sexton & O’Gara – I’m surprised Sexton isn’t getting the nod – I wonder does it have something to do with trying to fill the Aviva stadium by putting in some of the big names.

      Also, I wouldn’t write off Buckley just yet. Just don’t play him with a weak scrummaging loosehead (likewise for Healy, play him with a better scrummaging TH like Ross).

    • Richard Harper says:

      who do u suggest at loose head???? cos Healy is the best option Leinsters scrum has been really strong this season with Ross and Healy. Buckly was destroyed against that pair. i think ireland have a great chance to do really well this year and wouldn’t call for Redans or Sextons head on one hole team bad performance playing well for Leinster happy to see wallace on for Darcy think he’s a better distributor and creative player. trimbe is really on form and could nail down a place for him self. if we are talking about running rugby not kicking i think sexton has to be picked would love for Humphreys to be brought in from the cold in ulster and ireland hes our version of copper!! but with a better kick for touch and for points,

    • paul m says:

      @7 gerry. you’re spot on with regard to o’driscoll not adapting to the new tackle laws. that tackle he put in on the fullback could have given us a penalty or even a try had he released, as you can see the other irish chasers coming into contact almost immediately afterwards. Later in the match, I think its Fitzgerald (or maybe Bowe) who makes a tackle and does exactly that, releases and then we see Ireland support quick up and ball is recycled to Irish backline. If we want new ways to score tries or points, there it is on a plate.

      We have great chasers in Bowe and Fitzgerald who do understand the new tackle laws very well, lets use them more.

    • The Irish management this afternoon confirmed the replacements for the match at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm). Kidney opted to retain Donnacha Ryan on the bench as back up to Donncha O’Callaghan and Devin Toner, meaning Mick O’Driscoll drops out of the matchday 22.

      So too does scrumhalf Eoin Reddan, who sees Leinster team-mate Isaac Boss get the nod as cover for Peter Stringer.

      Ireland Replacements: Rory Best (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Isaac Boss (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster)

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