High-tempo Ireland must facilitate Scotland in their mediocrity
If Leinster were to play the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup this Sunday against Edinburgh I wonder who Joe Schmidt would select at outhalf. If he had all the Ireland players available to him,would he pick Paddy Jackson, Ronan O’Gara, Ian Madigan or Ian Keatley? Now Declan Kidney has finally made his decision we can move on to Sunday.
England beat us up a fortnight ago (look at the injuries) through contact and collisions. If Ireland do likewise they will beat Scotland. But what style of rugby will deliver a win?
To answer we must understand the Scottish threat. They look free-flowing when Johnnie Beattie dominates the contact, with continuity augmented by Richie Gray but when it’s not working it’s horrible. In particular at the breakdown area, which is where they come unstuck.
Here they can be downright awful: continuously coughing up possession, especially as their phases grow.
Interestingly, three tries against Italy came off minimal phases, turnovers etc. Scotland have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot by not treating the ball with enough respect. Our style should set out to expose this.
Against Italy they were never pushed to force the game, where, impressively, they afforded Italy multitudes of opportunity to do so and watched as they messed it up. Scotland shouldn’t have the same luxury on Sunday where errors should be encouraged.
I lost count of the number of times Italy easily got past the fringe defence and across the gain line into Scotland’s half. I didn’t lose count of Scotland’s 19 missed tackles (Ireland missed three against England).
At times Italy made huge gains with a narrow blindside continuity but came unstuck with handling errors.
Hence I’d not be surprised to see the lineout maul from Ireland combined with field position and narrow targets.
Crucially, Conor Murray at scrumhalf must have an armchair ride which will allow him to take ownership and provide guidance for Paddy Jackson. Hence a forward pack focused on collisions and contact will suit nicely.
There are many Scottish players to watch. Up front, Italy’s scrum was comfortable and at times Scotland’s was not. Euan Murray’s absence is less significant than expected. Richie Gray is simply beautiful! I adore watching him but he is no master of the offload, which would offer opportunities for Ireland.
Beside him, war horse Jim Hamilton out of Gloucester must be targeted in the lineout and in defence. England’s Ben Youngs skinned him on the way to Geoff Parling’s try. This can be done through building phases with the object of seeking him out on the fifth plus phase. The Irish lineout ball should also land wherever he’s defending as he is cumbersome over the ground.
The Scottish backrow is intriguing, with class in Beattie at eight but the flanks are nothing like their English counterparts. Although a target in the air, young Rob Harley (second cap) has little physical impact, especially carrying or at the breakdown.