Ireland keen to ‘get key things right in maul’ and lineout
Forwards coach expects ‘pretty special 80 minutes’ for Australia Test series decider
Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby: “To win a Test series in the southern hemisphere is a difficult thing to do. We know, we found that out in South Africa”. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
This week it’s the Wallabies who are the wounded ones, and will be seeking to atone for what they believe was a sub-par performance, but they won’t be alone in harbouring some anger over shortcomings in last Saturday’s second Test.
Among the many things this Ireland forward pack pride themselves on is their work at the lineout and the maul, both offensively and defensively. In the first Test, they won 12 out of 12 on their own throw, while pilfering three of the Wallabies’ 16 throws.
Not surprisingly, though much else went better in the second Test win, the Wallabies ensured it was a more balanced contest at lineout time with each team taking one throw off the opposition. But more relevantly, while an Ireland maul was the platform for Andrew Conway’s try, the Wallabies were awarded a penalty try off one of their own, with Cian Healy also being binned.
Speaking at the squad’s base in downtown Sydney, not far from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, on another chilly day punctuated by heavy downpours and some thunder and lightning, forwards coach Simon Easterby admitted: “I think we’ve been reasonable with certain aspects but I think we’ve disappointed in a few areas.”
“Defensively we coughed up a couple of silly penalties and there’s always a fine balance between challenging for a ball in the air and making sure that the opposition doesn’t get that forward momentum on the ground and I think we’ve just got to get that right this weekend.”
“We still want to compete, but we also need to make sure that when they hit the ground we don’t lose too many players and we don’t give them an advantage.”
I expect them to respond but I also expect us to get better as well
No less than the fateful 68th-minute scrum penalty against Ireland in the first Test, the forwards will be annoyed with themselves over that maul.
“Yeah, it makes them pretty angry. I think the disappointment was that we didn’t get some of our key things right in that maul. We weren’t able to get access through to the guy catching the ball,” he says.
“The guys are hurting about that and I think sometimes that does happen. You’ve got to take it on the chin but you’ve also got an opportunity this weekend to rectify that disappointment. Like we did after the scrum in the first Test we’ll have to do that this weekend after they score a penalty try.”
All things being equal then, after sharing a win apiece, each side could well produce their best displays of the series in a sold-out Allianz Stadium this Saturday.
“I think you saw in the first Test how physical they can be and if they get their attacking game going then they can be a threat from one to 15. I expect them to respond but I also expect us to get better as well and then I think if that’s the case then we’re looking at a pretty special 80 minutes at the weekend.”
Apart from winning the Six Nations or a Grand Slam, winning a series away to a major southern hemisphere force is the best prize in between World Cups. In many ways, this last dry run for next year’s World Cup provides a finale perhaps akin to a World Cup quarter-final.
“I guess it offers an opportunity, away from home, with a squad of 31/32 players that we’re together and we’re playing for something special; something that hasn’t been done in 39 years. To win a Test series in the southern hemisphere is a difficult thing to do. We know, we found that out in South Africa when we were 1-0 up and we came away with a 2-1 loss. These experiences are great for what will hopefully happen in 15/16 months’ time.”
This tour has also seen the squad’s depth strengthened, with all bar Ross Byrne of the 32 layers being used in the opening two Tests. Rob Herring and Niall Scannell have impressed in the absence of Rory Best; Tadhg Beirne has been blooded; Joey Carbery started the first Test; and Jordan Larmour has seen plenty of game time.
Dev’s physicality is great to see for a man of his size putting himself about
“This tour was always going to be that bit tougher coming to Australia, we’re fully loaded, but I think the last tour in the USA and Japan was also of real benefit for us in integrating some new players. Three of those players went on and played in the Six Nations that we capped on that tour and so over a period we’re starting to see that strength in depth in more than one position,” says Easterby in reference to James Ryan, Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Porter.
“If you want to go on and win a World Cup you have to have that competition but you also have to have that depth; if you lose two or three players in a position that you’re not losing the levels of those guys coming in.”
Beirne’s emergence compliments the presence of Ryan, Iain Henderson and Devin Toner, who keeps responding to every new challenge. “Dev’s physicality is great to see for a man of his size putting himself about. It’s something we’ve asked of him and he responded,” says Easterby.
“So the strength of the squad is good at the moment and we’re really comfortable with who we brought out here but there’s guys back home as well that haven’t travelled and I think they’ll add to the competition next season as well.”
The 23-year-old Munster bound ex-Sale fullback Mike Haley, who hails from Preston and has played for the England Saxons but is Irish qualified, through his maternal grandmother who hails from Tralee, could come into the frame.
Interestingly too, the presence of another Sale signing, the Ulster-bound Will Addison in training with the Irish squad since early last week is testimony to the regard in which Joe Schmidt holds the versatile 25-year-old. Addison can play on the wing or fullback but is primarily seen as a playmaking centre.
The Cumbrian-born product of the Sale academy played over 100 games for the club and also played for the English under-20s, but is Irish qualified through his mother, who hails from Enniskillen. He’s had a couple of injury disrupted seasons, but for the past 12 months had been Sale’s club captain. His presence here would strongly suggest he will come into the squad during the November window.