TV View: Ireland’s Twickenham shellacking a grisly watch
Alan Quinlan’s wishlist unanswered with England scarily pragmatic about their win
Owen Farrell gets to grips with Ireland captain Rory Best after a George Kruis try at Twickenham. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
George Orwell once remarked that “serious sport is war minus the shooting.” It seems a reasonable reference point in describing Ireland’s shellacking at Twickenham. There were obvious casualties like Cian Healy (ankle) and Conor Murray (head) but the damage to morale may take slightly longer to heal.
Defeat was hardly a surprise but the nature of it was disquieting in many respects and while there is some context to offer mitigation to the the broad disappointment of the performance, it doesn’t suffice in explaining how Ireland could be so badly beaten up.
The disconnect within the Irish team, in the lineout, in defence, in attacking shape was compounded by flat individual displays with the exception of the first 20 minutes when the game was briefly a contest. Ireland appeared heavy limbed from their training camp excursion in Portugal and for the majority it was the first competitive blowout of the season but doesn’t assuage the concerns with regard to the substandard fare.
England were further down the road in that respect, two tough games against Wales honing their match craft, but few would have predicted that they would be 42 points better on the day.
Certainly Sky Sports didn’t envisage such an outcome. In their hour long preamble to the match various analysts spoke about it being a “proper test” for both teams. In principle Ireland apparently looking to avenge their Six Nations defeat to England at the Aviva stadium while Eddie Jones’s side wanted to react positively to narrowly losing the previous weekend’s arm wrestle against Wales.
Sky couldn’t be accused of under resourcing the preview in personnel terms as England international and World Cup winner Emily Scarratt - her contributions were excellent, interesting and concise - Stephen Ferris, Clive Woodward, Will Greenwood and Alan Quinlan joined anchor Alex Hales and reporters Gail Davis, James Gemmell and Rupert Cox to provide the odds and sods of analysis and interviews.
Quinlan had a three point plan for Ireland; increase physicality, loosen shackles in attack and control the airwaves, a wishlist that went largely unfulfilled. The former Munster and Ireland flanker then scooted off the commentary box where he joined Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes. Little did he know how long an afternoon he would face; so too Ferris, the man in the van.
The former Ulster, Ireland Lions flanker has a little more scope to be considered outside the confines of commentary and is not only forthright in his opinions but adds the substance of specifics to his analysis. In the land of repetition and the sweeping statement his acuity is a prized asset.
Woodward, England’s 2003 World Cup winning coach, said at half-time - England led 22-10 - that “Ireland had really fronted up.” Really? This was an Irish team that had missed 21 tackles and lost almost 50 per cent of their lineout throws.
Ferris pointed to “lots of turnovers, lots of mistakes,” while Scarratt spoke about how Ireland were shortening up their defensive line by competing from the outside rather than the inside at the breakdown.
England’s second half performance brooked no argument, powerful, direct, slick when required, brutal in their physicality on both sides of the ball and they deserved all the plaudits. There were plenty of verbal bouquets being tossed their way, England accumulating superlatives as quickly as points on the scoreboard.
Harrison ventured: “As statements go that was capitals, underlined and highlighted in describing the victory.” Barnes suggested that “the rest of the world will worry about that England performance,” while Woodward chimed, “the world will be looking in and go(ing) wow.”
In his summation Hales spoke of how “Ireland had been humiliated here at Twickenham this afternoon.” In the background it was possible to envisage Quinlan and Ferris engaged in a furious game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to establish who had to stay on and give the ‘Oirish’ reaction to the thrashing.
While the pundits basked in the warm sunshine and the afterglow of England’s performance, metaphorically dusting off the bunting and the bandwagon, coach Eddie Jones and captain Owen Farrell were very measured in their reaction to the victory. That in itself is more worrying for the rest of world rugby.
There was no sense of euphoria just a pragmatic appraisal of what’s left on the to-do list ahead of Japan. They had deliberately arrived late to the ground, mimicking what might happen at the World Cup. It didn’t discommode them in the slightest.
Ireland head to Cardiff in search of a performance, one that suggests they are making discernible progress towards a peak rather than looking back over their shoulders at the summit.