Soroka confident Ireland can dominate lineout against England

Player believes his injury-hit side have the technique to beat taller opponents

Ireland’s Alex Soroka celebrates after forcing a penalty against Scotland. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Ireland’s Alex Soroka celebrates after forcing a penalty against Scotland. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Alexis Soroka preferred not to dwell on absent team-mates, instead favouring a more practical appraisal of the circumstances.

Injuries to secondrows Joe McCarthy and Darragh Murray removed the tallest timber from the Ireland squad prior to the start of the Under-20 Six Nations while hookers Tom Stewart and Lee Barron were also ruled out. McCarthy and Stewart boasted tournament experience from last year.

It threatened to compromise Ireland’s lineout structures but as the victories over Scotland and Wales have demonstrated, forwards coach Cullie Tucker and his charges have found a way to offset any height issues with a technically slick operation, winning 22 from 25 on the Irish throw. As a platform it is integral to Ireland’s attacking gambits and a lineout maul that has yielded tries and penalties.

Soroka explained: “Yeah I suppose we don’t have someone like Tom Ahern (6ft 9in) that we did last year. I personally don’t think it makes that much of a difference if someone is two or three inches taller than you; it doesn’t really matter if you are quicker than them, if you have better technique, it is no problem.

“I think you saw that against Scotland they have a big, tall six foot nine lad, once we got our stuff right it was okay, no problem. England have a very good lineout, two good jumpers and it is going to be a really big challenge but I am looking forward to it.”

Workload

The 20-year-old Soroka first called the lineout as a sixth-year student in Belvedere College and has no issue with the additional workload. “I think it is one of those things that you get out what you put in. It is tough during the week, especially in these camps, they are pretty full on and you have to go [back to the hotel] and get into the computer room and study.

“It’s pretty hard but you get out what you put in. If you analyse them well, know your detail and know what’s coming, you will hopefully be able to steal a few of their balls and get good quality possession for your team. I find it rewarding when you put in a week of hard work off the pitch and then it pays off.”

It’s a unit skill that relies on many component parts, including jumpers and lifters, speed across the ground and into the air, but hooker Ronan Loughnane deserves credit for its smooth running; despite Soroka’s assertion it’s not easy when you are giving away several inches in height. Ireland’s maul has been very effective to date – something that England will have noted.

Soroka, who made his Leinster senior debut last season against Glasgow – he has two caps – acknowledged the task ahead tonight. “I have been really impressed with their [England’s] first two games against France and Scotland.

“They can do a bit of everything, it is not just one threat, they can play through us, they can play around us; they have a very good kicking game, a very good set piece. We know we have to be at the top of our game in every aspect if we want to beat them. I think it is pretty exciting to play against a team with that much quality in it. We want to show what we can do.”

To fulfil that ambition, Ireland’s lineout will have to function as effectively as it has done in the tournament to date.

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