Ireland must keep the head as the Welsh bodies fly around
This clash will be physical but Joe Schmidt must get the breakdown right
Italy couldn’t deal with the hard running of Wales’s Jamie Roberts. Gordon D’Arcy will have his hands full on Saturday. Photograph: Joe Giddens/Pa Wire.
‘Enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever.” With the Welsh circus on its way it feels like President Kennedy’s words five months before his assassination suggest rivalries thaw out! Enmities won’t last forever, and neither will Warren Gatland, but tomorrow’s match will have enormous ramifications. The battle will be very physical, very mental and most crucially very tactical. We have struggled at times on all fronts – especially tactically. Enter Joe Schmidt.
Forget Wales against Italy (and Ireland v Scotland) as the tempo and intensity were absent far too long in tough fixtures that could have been won sleeping. Clearly the six day turnaround affords Ireland the “luxury” of mental preparation which is key to our success.
The intensity of the breakdown, ruthlessness of single figure errors (penalties akin to the New Zealand match) and management of referee Wayne Barnes will all dictate the outcome.
Historically Wales win by scoring tries and Ireland by kicking goals so Ireland need a tactical nuance such as our backline defensive structures limiting the monsters (hence Gordon D’Arcy’s return), ideally tunnelling Rhys Priestland inwards. And a far more pointed backline attack must maximise our style against the famed Gatland defence – isolating Alex Cuthbert would be nice.
Without Seán O’Brien we have to be inventive. The Declan Kidney tactic of give it to O’Brien was figured out by Wales and chopped down. When Scotland were full of effort and energy Ireland weathered the storm. Wales are unlikely to fade, so Ireland can’t afford a wait and see attitude. Where will creation come from? This is especially relevant to Ireland’s backline cutting edge – oh for Luke Fitzgerald or Keith Earls.
Our 22m exit strategy was fascinating last Sunday with Garryowens landing well inside our own half in an effort to regain. With the Welsh back three this is dangerous business and liable to be punished.
Wales have huge variety in their lineout. The obvious target of beanpole (but poor scrummager) Luke Charteris was rarely utilised against the Italians so although injured he may not be a Welsh loss; Andrew Coombs adds more menace with Alun-Wyn Jones their key lineout defender. Toby Faletau over the back of the lineout is extremely dangerous with centre Jamie Roberts timing his line for a perfect circle pass. Roberts is the same height as secondrow Coombs but two pounds heavier – best of luck D’Arcy.
I notice some have grown tired of my breakdown debate. Well, there were 30 lineouts and six scrums last week and 334 tackle areas with 19 turnovers. The breakdown is where the action is and in Welsh numbers two, four, six, seven, right and nine Wales have enough to stunt any Irish momentum. Hence a method to avoid such an encounter and possibly Joe Schmidt’s greatest challenge – how to limit Irish numbers to the breakdown to keep the attack flowing as he did in Leinster. More green jerseys in the breakdown or more offloads out of contact.