Criticisms are warranted but we didn't get rub of green
Presuming Sexton’s grade two tear rules him out of the French game, then having placed his faith in him, Kidney may as well stick with the kid, but there might be merit in having Fergus McFadden on the wing.
Heaslip has been roundly condemned for not taking two shots at goal but one has a degree of sympathy for him, for clearly the captain must have been aware of Jackson’s lack of form and experience off the tee. A similar decision by Rory Best turned a 6-0 deficit into a 7-6 lead against Scotland last year.
But in the warm-up, under the watchful eye of Mark Tainton, Jackson’s only misses were from the right, yet he was asked to kick at goal from wide to the right after the Scots had been reduced to 14 men. His subsequent two misses were from the right, one hitting the post, whereas the two kicks to the corner were on the left – although one led to the close-range penalty which he landed anyway.
Another stick being used to beat Kidney is the selection of Tom Court ahead of David Kilcoyne, but as highlighted in these pages by Liam Toland yesterday, some of the scrum problems emanated from backrowers not staying with the scrum, while Kilcoyne immediately had as many problems, if not more, when he was introduced.
Strangely, a struggling set-piece was the foundation for having 80 per cent of both territory and possession.
Hence, the clearing out and collective work at the breakdown had to be good, likewise the willing carrying of all the backrowers, the work under the high ball of Gilroy, Rob Kearney and co, with the latter having his best game yet, even if he’ll regret running the ball back rather than kicking it back to concede the penalty – albeit a very harsh call against Donncha O’Callaghan for going off his feet – which gave Scotland their first foothold of the match.
The attacking shape, for the first 50 minutes or so especially, was good, changing the point of attack back inside and exposing a porous Scottish midfield, and in particular there was the emergence of Marshall as a player of genuine Test quality – thereby vindicating the fast-tracking of him into the international set-up.
Next up, though, a French team in desperate need of a win after three successive defeats, who are also struggling to see out 80 minutes and had also passed on the captaincy baton, though injury to Pascal Pape has since seen the reinstatement of Thierry Dusautoir.
They found a better balance to their starting team, if not their bench, in Twickenham, and were again left to rue some awful refereeing by their World Cup final bête noire Craig Joubert.
Ireland’s luck doesn’t look like improving any time soon.