What links Taine Basham, Antoine Dupont, Cyril Baille and Pierre Schoeman in the context of Ireland's performances in the 2022 Six Nations Championship?
The answer is that they were the only players to cross the Irish line during the tournament, a statistic that should be a feather in the cap of Ireland defence coach Simon Easterby.
There is no doubt that Italy having to play with 13 players (Hame Faiva, red card) and England with 14 (Charlie Ewels, red card) – matches in which Ireland did not give up a single try to their opponents – would have to be part of any discussion but for Andy Farrell's team to concede just four tries deserves to be recognised.
Ireland scrambled well in defence in a general sense and the most recent example of that hustle came in the form of Hugo Keenan's try-saving tackle on Stuart Hogg. Sure the Scotland captain should have passed the ball to guarantee a try but Keenan's attitude and technique was exemplary.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell admitted: "There are some momentum changes and you know when things are going to go your way when you've got players like that pulling special moments out of the bag. It's part of the game that you guys won't judge as much as us but we were unbelievable in defending our own line."
It's a mindset that will be very important in New Zealand this summer.
Skehan goes Dutch to help out Castricumse
St Michael's College SCT coach Andy Skehan has agreed to work with the Castricumse Rugby club in the Netherlands for the next two months as they bid to win the Dutch Championship.
The highly regarded Leinster representative age-grade coach flew over to watch a match and accepted an offer to help prepare the club for the final seven matches of the season. He took his first training session last Thursday night. It's important to clarify he hasn't emigrated.
He smiled: “I heard suggestions that I was taking up a job full-time. I’m here for two months. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if Michael’s were still involved in the Leinster Senior Cup. It all happened very quickly from the initial contact.”
Castricumse have seven matches left in the season after the league splits into two halves and they are keen to try and win the championship. While some of the players would be in similar physical condition to All Ireland League players Skehan feels that there is plenty of scope to raise the rugby standard of the team in a short space of time.
He was an interested spectator at the Rugby Europe Championship match on Saturday where his two centres were part of the Netherlands team that lost 38-12 to Romania. The playing roster at Castricumse is exclusively Dutch apart from one New Zealander.
Sexton proud of group effort
"It's a very tight bunch. We have come from some low times. It's only a few years ago we were being written off. The coach was being written off, the captain was being written off and the team was being written off. It's pretty fickle, sport, isn't it? So we will keep our feet grounded because we know how fickle it is. I'm just proud to be part of this group." Ireland captain Johnny Sexton.
Ireland lead try count
24: The number of tries that Ireland scored in the 2022 Six Nations Championship, seven more than champions France and three times as many as England (eight) and Wales (eight). Scotland managed 11 while Italy crossed for five.
Adams’s gesture for impressive Capuozzo
There was a lovely moment when Lions and Wales wing Josh Adams pressed his man of the match medal into the hand of 22-year-old Ange Capuozzo after the Italian fullback's brilliant run had set up a late try for Edoardo Padovani.
Paolo Garbisi’s conversion meant that Italy broke a 36-match losing streak in the Six Nations Championship dating back to the 2015 tournament with a 22-21 victory at the Principality Stadium. Adams’ generous gesture was captured by the television cameras, the warmth of the moment captured by the wide-eyed expression, hug and shy smile of the recipient.
It was Capuozzo’s second cap having scored two tries on his debut the previous weekend against Scotland. The young player said of the occasion: “I can almost stop there, it’s so beautiful.”
The way he plays captivates onlookers, the speed, agility, footwork and his courage. He has a lighter frame – he weighs 68-71 kilograms depending on where you choose to source your statistics – than Cheslin Kolbe (75kgs) or Michael Lowry (78kgs).
Capuozzo plays for French Pro D2 side Grenoble, the city in which he was born but qualifies to play for the Azzurri because of his Italian parents. Alessandro Troncon persuaded the young fullback to play with the Italy Under-20 side before Kieran Crowley handed Capuozzo his debut off the bench against the Scots.
The Italian head coach said: “It was nice to see him bounce back from mistakes [in his debut] and demonstrate resilience. He didn’t break down, he got back on his feet and that’s what I ask of a player like him.”
Crowley selected Capuozzo to start against Wales and the young player repaid his faith with the late match-winning intervention.