Ireland suffer bloody nose at battle of breakdown
Jordi Murphy unhappy with the way Justin Tipuric invaded heart of Irish ruck
Ireland’s Jordi Murphy gets on the front foot against Wales. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Bragging rights at the breakdown are highly prized among backrow forwards and Wales’s openside flanker Justin Tipuric did his emphatically on Saturday, forcing Ireland to concede possession or penalties, while also contributing a try from a driving lineout maul.
Tipuric thoroughly deserved his man-of-the-match accolade. When there are fine margins on the scoreboard, a player who consistently and successfully invades the heart of an opposition ruck quickly becomes more than an irritant.
Tipuric pillaged Irish ball but at times was facilitated by Ireland’s imprecision in clearing out at the breakdown or a ball-carrier becoming isolated and therefore vulnerable. Successful execution in and around the ruck area is a team issue but those in the backrow are particularly sensitive to this facet of the game.
Disappointment and frustration were etched on Jordi Murphy’s features. “[We’re] pretty disappointed with quite a few aspects.
“I wasn’t happy with my breakdown work. I think we lost the battle there but I’ve just got to park it and try to get better.
“Sometimes [we weren’t] cleaning deep [enough], they were getting blockers through and we weren’t being too smart about it. They were getting players in and just won the battle there.”
The pressure Wales exerted at the breakdown meant that the home side was forced to transgress, and a 14-8 penalty count against Ireland was something that Joe Schmidt spoke about in the aftermath.
“He was pretty disappointed with the number of penalties we conceded,” Murphy admitted.
“That’s one of the things that we base ourselves on. We had double the amount so it’s definitely one of the big work-ons. That’s not the kind of team we want to be. We don’t want to be giving other teams easy rides like that, especially when we have them in tough positions five metres from their own line.
“We’ve got a good opportunity to improve against a formidable side like England. Obviously we’re going to have to look at things at the start of the week and we’re going to have to improve significantly if we’re to do a job on England.”
An injury to Luke Fitzgerald – he was replaced by Donnacha Ryan – meant a reshuffling in terms of the duty roster as Ireland had no backs left on the bench. Murphy returned to the centre position he had last occupied during his school days at Blackrock College.
“I played centre in second year of school and one time last year for Leinster, just for a few minutes in a Heineken game,” he said. “Donners [Ryan] came on and I was told to go out in the centre. I didn’t think twice about it, just went out and tried to do my best. There wasn’t much I had to do, just defend really and a few carries at the end.”
Murphy admitted that he would endure a sleepless night, waiting to see if he had made the World Cup squad but one player who by his own admission wasn’t expecting good news was Leinster tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong.
The consolation came in the form of his Ireland debut when introduced as a second-half replacement for Nathan White.
Furlong, a player of huge potential, has seen his pre-season blighted by injury but there was a silver lining to a disappointment afternoon.
“It is always nice to get your first cap and it is a very proud moment for me, my family and my local club in New Ross,” he said.
“It was my first run out since May. Initially you have that early feeling of nerves with stuff running through your mind and the added pressure of playing for your country for the first time. I was nervous but at the same time looking forward to it. I am delighted to have that game under my belt now.”