Ireland need to target Phillips and threaten a counter
Without Shane Williams and Lee Byrne, Welsh creativity is from the power lines and less about wriggling free. Crucially, Phillips’ pass, allied to Biggar’s variety of positioning, means Wales have many ways of moving the ball out wide, where they will get number eight Toby Faletau combining with the big midfield deep inside their half and 22, deciding very late to kick or pass, depending on the Irish reaction to the move.
There are many clues for Ireland in the play of Australia, who have a very proactive deep kick reception, always shifting the ball with two big passes.
Although flirting with counterattack, well over 90 per cent of the time they kick. Australia’s threat to counter is used to pull Wales forward to kick into the space behind. If Wales don’t chase, then the counter is on! It is crucial Ireland threaten a counter but are patient as field position may be more beneficial.
Phillips in isolation
Mike Phillips’ confidence and physicality is an opportunity for Ireland as he tends to get involved defensively by filling into the pillar and not remaining neutral. Australia had massive blindsides in the opening minutes but failed to spot a lonely Phillips in isolation. Rewind Ireland!
Ireland should employ a rolling lineout maul going infield to generate a blindside as Phillips tends to defend the blindside in isolation. Their forwards make multiple tackles which forces multiple phases, keeping Welsh backs free. In the past Ireland couldn’t get beyond their forward defence. Australia gained ground when forwards took on the fringe five to ten metres wide and very flat, shifting their feet laterally and offloading to an angled run. Davies is very strong over the tackle. However, Roberts tends to get ahead of 10s in line speed; an opportunity for Irish blindside wingers to expose Biggar.
Without Wyn-Jones, Bradley Davies and especially Lydiate, Wales are weakened. What then will Kidney bring? Only a performance can answer these questions but now the head coach has built a team of coaches around him a poor performance cannot be tolerated. Hence tomorrow is his watershed, where we should no longer be interested in blah, blah, blah answers.
Finally, as Jonny Sexton departs provincial rugby I wonder how his relationship with us over the coming seasons will change? As an outhalf can he maintain the same influence over the Ireland team? Conscious of Ronan O’Gara’s impressive winning averages, Sexton’s relationship with Ireland at the helm now becomes a matter of winning averages with no space for delayed gratification.
PS I wonder what the IRFU’s Philip Browne is going to do with all the money he has saved on Sexton?