England and the Premiership clubs should be worried: British press react
Leinster’s firebrand tyros get all the plaudits while their Saracens peers look jaded
Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell after Leinster’s win over Saracens. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Just over two weeks on from Ireland’s Grand Slam victory at Twickenham, the provinces have joined the party.
Last Saturday Munster delivered a typically Munster performance, and Thomond Park roared as Toulon’s Galacticos were sent home with tails between legs.
Then Sunday saw a brutally efficient Leinster dethrone back-to-back champions Saracens at the Aviva Stadium, a combination of nous, flair and brawn seeing them win 30-19.
And it is this core of players who have received the majority of the plaudits from the English press following the quarter-final in Dublin.
Indeed, in the Guardian, Rob Kitson writes: “Ryan, who is yet to taste defeat for either his province or country at senior level, looks the real deal at lock and Furlong is now firmly established as the northern hemisphere’s foremost tight-head.
“Quite why Ringrose was omitted from the British & Irish Lions tour party last year grows ever more unfathomable and Johnny Sexton does not require a ringmaster’s hat to denote who is pulling the strings.”
His thoughts are echoed by the Telegraph’s Dan Schofield: “Saracens had no match for the imagination of Isa Nacewa and Garry Ringrose in midfield or the untamed ferocity of Tadhg Furlong and Dan Leavy in the pack.
“Their tries, scored by Ringrose, Leavy and James Lowe, were all gloriously designed and wonderfully executed. All three bore the fingerprints of Stuart Lancaster, the deposed England head coach restoring his reputation as senior Leinster coach.”
But while Leinster’s victory - allied to the Six Nations - shows the rude health Irish rugby is currently in, it was also the latest blow in what has been a very disappointing season for English rugby.
And this is something Clive Woodward alludes to in the Daily Mail (UK): “Should England and the Premiership clubs be worried? Yes, absolutely. At best they have stood still for a year, arguably regressed, while their main rivals — and I include France and French clubs — have improved.
“You get the feeling all the top international teams are now relishing the opportunity to play England. I hope Eddie Jones and those responsible for the health of English rugby understand what they are now facing.”
And while Ireland’s tyros thrived in Dublin, Itoje struggled to have a similar impact on proceedings, Woodward writes: “Maro is not the snarling, supercharged player of 2016 and 2017. He’s a young man who needs a rest this summer and a chance to re-energise.
“The same applies to Mako Vunipola who somehow dredged out a wonderful performance on Sunday. That tells you so much about his pride, but he needs a break as well.”
Kitson also suggests this season has been a nadir for the English: “English rugby would certainly swap places with its Irish counterparts just now.
“Say what you like about the respective leagues and player workload but the scores on the doors do not lie; the only consolation for the Premiership’s finest is that next season can hardly be any worse.”
So, on to the semi-finals and the visit of the flying Scarlets from west Wales.
Can one of the provinces add club glory to Six Nations success? Woodward believes so: “As for Leinster, they have the look of champions.
“Sunday was potentially tricky with all the Ireland guys returning from national duty but they have another gear or two yet and you can only look on in admiration at a young gun like Dan Leavy coming through and underlining his Six Nations form.”
2018 just keeps getting better for Irish rugby.