Best Served Cold

We’re certain we weren’t the only ones only dying for Ireland to hand Wales their hoops on Saturday – the teams have developed a rivalry which is, er, let’s say keen. It bugs the Irish players more than a little that, since both nations suffered such disastrous RWC07’s, Wales have won 3 Championships (with 2 Grand Slams) and made it to a RWC semi-final while we have bagged only the one Grand Slam and a quarter final. In the games between the sides, there has typically been little in it, with the exception of the RWC11 knock-out. The Ireland players wouldn’t consider themselves inferior to the Welsh in any way, and it’s a stain on their record that the Red Army Motorized Tank Division are more garlanded at this level.

Of course, that record includes Ireland’s catastrophic ’08 and ’13 seasons – fag ends of dead coaching reigns, and seasons where Wales delivered under Gatty. With Ireland now benefitting from a coaching bounce, it felt like the time to re-assert our surperiority. But how? Throw it around Baa-Baa’s style and run rings around their gargantuan backs – we will score one more than you? Sounds difficult. Shut down Plan A, mash them out of touch, maul them into submission and reduce them to a squabbling rabble by the end? Much better – the psychology of such a victory is double-edged – boost confidence and ruthlessness in the camp, and destroy the confidence of your rival. It’s classic Jose Mourinho – attack your opponent’s strength and break them down.  We said Ireland would win if it was a set-piece game, and we made it that.  There were 29 lineouts in all.

This was Ireland’s revenge, served ice cold. The Welsh camp was personified by the puce-faced loss of control of Mike Philips, the impotence of Sam the Eagle and Dirty Liam Williams forearm smash on Wee PJ. For the first time in years, Ireland have put together back-to-back performances – and it’s been based on ruthless execution and accuracy, dead-eyed concentration to the fore. There was real desire to do Wales for sure, but it wasn’t an emotional-high type performance like we are used to. It was like the Scottish one, but up a notch, and it bodes really well for the rest of the tournament.

Shane Horgan has mentioned it several times on the air; Joe Schmidt is what they call a ‘solutions provider’.  His method is to analyse the opposition in depth and provide his players with the means to beating them.  While he is famed for producing the sort of rugby with which Leinster beat Northampton in the 2011 Heineken Cup final, he is a pragmatist at heart, and when it comes to selection he picks not those he deems to be his best players, but those who can best execute the plan.

Peter O’Mahony’s deployment is a classic example of maximising use of resources.  O’Mahony’s weak point is his tackling, which is neither frequent nor powerful, but by deploying him at the ruck, Schmidt has both nullified his weakness and amplified his strength.  The sight of the No.6 bent over the ball winning yet another turnover penalty has become the iconic image of the series so far.  And the positive body language between he and Jamie Heaslip – two chaps who haven’t exactly dovetailed well in their careers to date – when he won a penalty to end Wales’ only sustained pressure in the first hour was noticeable.

Equally positive has been the performance of the wings.  Eyebrows were raised – and not just in Munster – when Simon Zebo was left out of the squad.  Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble are more mundane talents, but they have rewarded their coach amply.  Both are playing superbly, to the manor born.  Leinster fans have gotten used to unexpected selection calls from Schmidt bearing fruit over the 80 minutes on the pitch; now the rest of the country will start to get the same feeling.

Another tick-mark in Schmidt’s copy book was the decision to replace O’Connell.  The iron-willed collossus was patently short of match-fitness, but gave his all for fifty-five minutes, as only he can.  Previous coaching tickets would have tried to bleed more out of him, but showing trust in the reserves is another great property of Schmidt.  He showed it in Clermont when he put a youthful Eoin O’Malley and Fergus McFadden in the team, and still went out to attack Les Jaunards and look to win the game.  And he showed it here, by taking O’Connell off early, and showing his trust in Dan Tuohy to step up to the mark.  Tuohy’s arm-break is unfortunate, so a return to action for Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan could be timely.

From here, it’s over to Twickers, with zero tries and just nine points conceded. England have the biggest pack in the competition, but the like of Hartley, Cole, Lawes and Robshaw (the spine of the English pack) have found themselves humiliated by Irish opponents on their own turf in the last 12 months. Playing with this kind of focus and power, Ireland are not going to be frightened by the red rose, but this is the hardest game of the series to date. And there is silverware at stake – if Ireland win, it’s a first Triple Crown in five years, after four in six before that (we shudder at how the Triple Crown was dismissed as a virtual irrelevance ahead of the Scotland game in 2010 – hubris like that won’t happen again soon).

Just because it worked against Wales, doesn’t mean it’ll work against England, and Schmidt will make the necessary adjustments and changes to the approach; providing the players with the next solution, the one to beat England.  A powerful lineout maul and kicking game will not be enough this time, because England can match us in those areas.  This might be the game to try and put a little bit more through the backs.  Don’t be entirely surprised to see some ruthlessness from Schmidt.  Perhaps one of Bowe, Fitzgerald or Zebo will come into the team to provide a little more cutting edge.

This year has that feeling to it, you know.  The game against England is going to be an absolute ding-dong.  We cannot wait.

PS. We loved Gatland’s comment when asked about O’Mahony: ‘You can never underestimate the passion a Munster man will bring to a match’.  It seems that POM’s public image has even filtered through to the Welsh.  It wasn’t his flawless technique over the ball and exceptional skills in the lineout that dominated the game; it was his passion.

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97 Comments

  1. Brian Donnelly

     /  February 10, 2014

    Plenty of time to get cold-eyed about Ingerland yet.

    For now I’m wallowing in putting the Welsh in their place. And that very much includes making them realise that their behemoth backs are but a passing curiosity while a certain Green 13 will have a career lauded worldwide long after 2013 is forgotten.

    A wonderful day.

  2. connachtexile

     /  February 10, 2014

    You honestly think Schmidt would pick Donnacha Ryan? He’s missed a huge amount of rugby because of injury and we’ve seen Schmidt drop/not pick Darcy, Zebo and Fitzgerald for not being match-fit. Surely Ian Henderson has a better chance than Ryan?

    • Yeah, I think Henderson has a great chance. But if Ryan and McCarthy could get some gametime in it would give us options. Don’t underestimate the positive of having fellows champing at the bit to get in the team!

    • I love Henderson, but if Ryan returns playing well this week he’ll certainly make it a tough call. They provide the same breadth of cover, and Ryan is far more experienced (and just as good right now, though Henderson’s ceiling is certainly higher). I think they’re both better options than McCarthy, but Schmidt signed McCarthy for Leinster so he obviously sees a lot in him. It’ll be great to have these options, even if it’s gutting Tuohy has to drop out.

  3. Munstermicko

     /  February 10, 2014

    Pishin O Mahoney.

    He had another great go at belting out the anthems on Saturday as well!

  4. Bueller

     /  February 10, 2014

    Gatlands remarks are almost as ridiculous as your dismissal of POMs performance as an extension of Joe Schmidts puppet strings. Joe the genius told his 6 to go out and force a load of turnovers! Schmidt is a brilliant coach and Im sure he will bring all the players on technically but POM has been putting similar performances in at club level for a good 2 seasons now and has, contrary to popular WOC commenters beliefs, never put in a below par stint in green. He may have been overshadowed by a certain tullow tank who has been everywhere over the past 2 years but he always did well despite peoples reliance on ridiculous stats. His popularity in the media may have been something to do with him genuinely being class and having massive potential at a very young age and not the fictional Cork Con Mafia or his “good-face”. Now that Declan is gone POM and Murrays (another example of provincial scapegoatism) selections are down to genius by Schmidt as opposed to DKs unwavering provincial bias?….DKs selections had nothing to do with actual rugby knowledge and the fact that POM nd Murray are now proving to be the bestin their positions in Europe in their early 20s?

    • Patrick O'Riordan

       /  February 10, 2014

      However didn’t Deccie’s game plan have POM mainly swanning around on the wing? Coaching isn’t just recognising talent, it is knowing how to use it as well.

      • Bueller

         /  February 10, 2014

        Yes Patrick, he was attempting to utilise SOB and POM’s strengths in unison. Now that SOB is gone we don’t have a ground-hog and POM’s interlinking play is being negated somewhat to be destructive in the rucks. DK was no Schmidt but I just love the hypocracy of opinion.

        • Hmmm. Didn’t O’Mahony standing wide require Heaslip to do a whole load of clearing out and messing about in the ruck? Looks like Schmidt has reversed the roles there to pretty winning effect.

          I don’t honestly know what your issue is here Bueller. O’Mahony is playing fantastic. Heaslip has been superb. Henry is doing great. The backrow is working as a unit. The team executed a game plan with cold-eyed clarity. The caoch gets some credit. Last year we looked a shambles. The coach took some flak. I thought everyone would have some pep in their step after the win on saturday. Stop looking for a fight and enjoy Ireland doing well for a change.

        • Amiga500

           /  February 10, 2014

          Really?

          By putting the best ball carrying backrower in Europe into the rucks and sending a man that now looks to be an excellent jackal out to the wings…

          Genius.

          • Bueller

             /  February 10, 2014

            Best ball carrying back row was kept tight, the better ball handling back row was kept wide and the “lazy”no 8 was kept i the breakdown. I never said it worked but it wasn’t mindless.

        • ‘Without SOB we don’t have a groundhog’

          I think you’ll find that Chris Henry does a bit of that. O’Mahoney has been brilliant and he has gone to another level in this year’s 6N. Not suggesting that he was’t good before, but he should have had back-to-back MoTM performances in 2 excellent Irish wins.

          Also, can anyone explain the Jamie-bashing? Surely his sustained excellence can excuse a penchant for latte and Dr Beats.

          • Stevo

             /  February 11, 2014

            Jamie Heaslip could carry half the English pack over the line Ginger McLoughlin-style for three tries at Twickenham and he still wouldn’t get more than a begrudging nod from certain quarters.

          • Bueller

             /  February 11, 2014

            Heaslip got man of the match last week and sure don’t we all know that the Irish rugby media run by Cork Con? I am not doubting that there are certain dopes out there who do not rate Heaslip but they are exactly that-dopes and they don’t all hail from down south!

    • I think you’re trying to see stuff that just isn’t there Bueller. ‘Dismissal of POC’s performance?’ Come off it. We are loving his work, get outta here and stop trying to brew trouble!

      Of course Schmidt should get some credit for deploying him so effectively. O’Mahony is playing a totally different role this year and he is excelling. Last year he was standing in wide channels waiting for the ball to come to him so he could run with it. This year he’s Lord of the breakdown and has been among our best performers in the first two games. We’ve hardly seen him as a carrier, but that’s fine. You really don’t think the coach has instructed him to float around the tackle and then go for the ball on the deck?

      Check out our ‘good face’ article again. The point of it wsn’t that O’Mahony is rubbish or overrated, more that a stereotypical image of him was built in the media which didn’t meet with reality, which happened to underestimate him in some ways as well as overerestimate certain elements of his game. Same goes for Gatland’s comments. There’s more to him than just ‘Munster pishun’, right?

      • Bueller

         /  February 10, 2014

        In fairness much of the above is directed at the swathes of moronic comments that have been posted below your guys work over the past few years. That being said I think a little self-analysis and reading between the lines of your own articles would be beneficial for you. I never remember SOBs barnstorming performances being attributed to DK saying “go out the now lad and run hard”,which he most certainly did. I’m all for Saint Joe and I think he is far superior to DK but I would put POMs more prominent presence at the breakdown down more so to the absence of SOB.

        • Bueller, don’t worry, we’ll be looking for a climb-down from Leinsterlion on O’Mahony’s value to the team just as much as you when he comes online.

          Now go have a lie down!

        • Leinsterlion

           /  February 10, 2014

          For the record if SOB was fit, or Ferris for that matter, I’d drop POM and stick SOB at 6, they can do everything POM does and more.

          • I sincerely doubt SOB is a useful lineout option, on our throw or the opposition’s.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  February 10, 2014

            Thats what Heaslip is for, our backrow is utterly devoid of carrying heft. Fine if your entire gameplan is based around lineout dominance, thats great, but what we lose in ball carrying is fairly evident on the last two weeks performances, its not sustainable long term.

    • Yossarian

       /  February 10, 2014

      jaysus Bueller, never seen someone so eager to “i told ya so” i have been a critic of POM in the past, not because he doesn’t do good things on the pitch, just that he didn’t seem to do them often enough. his last three performances for Ireland have been excellent.I never saw this side to his play at the breakdown, he has been terrific there. Would you consider him a good tackler?he certainly isn’t a 6 in the big hitting mold. i think you have to give schmidt credit for how he has deployed his back row. It is the opposite of what the welsh did with Lydiate chopping and warburton getting over the ball, we have Henry chopping and POM swooping in.If you doubt the coaches role in how a team is deployed watch the rudderless French attack against Italy. Every poster here just wants to see a successful Irish team, critics in the past did so because they felt they weren’t seeing the most out of the irish team, no one can say that of the past few performances.

      • Bueller

         /  February 10, 2014

        If I was quick to say ‘I told ya so’ I would have said it 3 games ago. I just find it substantially irritating that for a young Munster player to get any credit on this blog (I am talking commenters here) they have to put in 3 consecutive MOTM worthy performances or (in Murrays case) become a Lions front-runner. The opinion was that these players were not originally picked on merit and suddenly ‘came good’. Boll*x – they were good from the start and have now improved. Anyone who has ever made a slight at Heaslip has been disregarded as a Munster eeejit but those who questioned POM and Murray for example have a tactical high-ground. (AS an aside I have always thought Heaslip was immense and we dont have any real alternatives anyway).
        As for LeinsterLion the unfortunate thing is that I think he will find a way to agree with me, as his qualms were not necessarily with POM (although he had those also) as much as they were with the ‘balance of the back-row’.
        I may actually go for that lie down now.

        • Thanks for saying its not us directly! We have been Murray fans since like forever, we got laughed at a bit for calling on him to go to RWC11!

          • But you must admit it was hard to sustain that position throughout the step, step, pause pass era of 2012. You’ve got to call it as you see it. Bags of promise, a bit of a dip and since the Lions (and with delicious irony, thanks to Rob Howley) now pushing to be one of the best in the world.

            Talking of scrummies having ups and downs, nice of Danny Care to come to the party having made complete arses of us ahead of the Lions tour. Lets hope he can discover his 2013 form on 22 Feb.

        • Jimbob

           /  February 10, 2014

          I’m yet to see a genuine rugby argument made about Heaslip. He’s usually called a knob or showpony or criticised for using twitter – hence the dissenters being disregarded.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  February 10, 2014

          Yeah, I will agree with you, partly. In the two games we have played the backrow has worked extremely well, POMs ground game being the eyecatching facet of the backrow. The fact there are two players around him making tackles is being pushed to the wayside… He still has holes in his game, being covered up, ordinary tackler and carrying of the ball. He has morphed into a good international flanker and is excelling in Schmidts system (eg balance,not DK shoehorn three players in (eg:Heaslip,SOB and Ferris or any other variation smh)) where he is given license to cause havoc at the breakdown. Imo he is playing the SA/french version of a six, hes almost(I said almost), Dusatoir-esque
          BUT as a “six” he isnt being asked to do a whole lot “above and beyond the call of duty”, and I’d lump Heaslip in too, in that our backrow hasnt carried that much, we cant go through games against good opposition with our backrow contributing so little go forward, interlinking passing etc, its a big worry imo.

          • Scrumdog

             /  February 12, 2014

            Leinsterlion, well said. Its O’Mahony’s tackling as a flanker that irritates me (never more than eight tackles and certainly have been less) as well as the media hype, which is not doing the player any favours. He did deserve recognition for his last two matches in green, but before that…?? His tackling is woeful as an international flanker. Ferris averaged 12.6 tackles per test in his last 6N…O’Mahony averaged 4.5 in last years 6N. Ruddock registered 19 tackles against the Saxons a few weeks ago. Tackling is a basic requirement in the backrow as well as winning ball and carrying it forward.
            When Mako Vunipolo makes a run at him it will be interesting indeed!

        • Declan1798

           /  February 10, 2014

          I’m not trying to troll but bar his kicking which can be a hit and and his tidying up at the limit which is always excellent, is Murray not a little off top form. Passing has been a little shaky, especially the short balls to forwards. He’s our number 9, but ease op on the messiah talk just yet.
          As regards your tone towards joe, do you really want mr kidney back? Really?

          • Bueller

             /  February 10, 2014

            What attitude towards Joe? I think he’s fantastic. I just dont buy the Kidney was clueless line.

      • Bueller

         /  February 10, 2014

        Also yes I would consider him a good tackler and if you have never seen this side to him at the breakdown then you clearly haven’t been watching him in the HC or Rabo over the past few seasons.

        • Yossarian

           /  February 10, 2014

          have watched him plenty of times over the past few years(you know,when he came into camera shot from the wing or whatever)have never seen him so prominent at the breakdown. He was getting stuck in regularly. Definite improvement to that side of his game this year.

  5. curates_egg

     /  February 10, 2014

    Again, this week, one of the most satisfying things was to see almost all Irish performers performing to a high level and concentrating for their entire time on the pitch. Looking at the parochially-maligned members of the squad (Trimble, D. Kearney, O’Mahony, Toner), they all seem to be delivering at the tops of their performance levels, which must be particularly satisfying for them.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to also see Marshall back for the trip to Twickers but D’Arcy delivered in spades. A real tour-de-force. He was a chop tackle machine but how he was employed as a ball-carrier was superb to watch. It seemed that, each time not much was on, Murray would pass to him, he would dance around, suck in 2-3 defenders, present cleanly, and then set us up nicely for go-forward off the next phase. Total contrast with what Marhsall offers but very effective.

    • Professional, is the word that springs to mind looking at it. It looks like Joe is doing a great job of instilling belief in the players without it boiling over.

      The try-scoring cutting edge is a minor quibble, Plumtree has turned our pack into a real unit who can compete with anyone in the tight, and I’d expect changes to the line-up in Twickenham (along with a change in gameplan). I reckon TOD, Marshall and Fitz will start, with Henderson and Reddan to come onto the bench.

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  February 10, 2014

        England and France will be much greater tests in the tight, make no mistake. The Welsh tight five have really struggled to get to grips with the new scrum laws and Jenkins in particular looked a busted flush; he kept trying to play silly buggers instead of doing his job, a telltale sign of a man out of his depth. The less said about Scotland the better, obviously.

        While we were great and I am delighted, our victory over the Welsh was in the back row and the back three. To say we can compete with anyone in the tight seems like a false dawn – the French predilection for picking monstrous locks and the English reliance on picking monstrous everybody could see Schmidt’s glorious new vision strangled in the cradle.

        • curates_egg

           /  February 10, 2014

          Did you watch France yesterday? Their scrum was anything but dominant, their line-out wobbled. The week before they made hay against England’s scrum. Impossible to say where that leaves us…but no panic needed.

          • Bowe Gathers

             /  February 10, 2014

            Their scrum wobbled because they hadn’t their strongest front rows in the squad, and their locks are perpetually massive, as pointed out by WoC in previous editions. Their lineout I will certainly concede was dubious, but it’s what they can do in the tight: defensive mauling, bashing our direct forward runners and generally winning the tight collisions around the breakdown that we won so well against Wales.

            I really struggle to believe that we can compete with them on their day at their patch in an arm wrestle. Not saying that it’ll come down to it, and if we know anything about JS it’s that he’ll try to avoid that. Still, we’re hyping up a pack with lightweight locks,seriously unproven sub props/locks and a tighthead who looks beyond knackered at points. All I’m trying to say is that, when it comes to pure Irish beef, we’re a bit short. Vive L’Irlandais to be sure, but if we win against England or France it won’t be by sticking it up our jumpers

          • curates_egg

             /  February 10, 2014

            Amen to that.

      • curates_egg

         /  February 10, 2014

        5 tries for; 0 against in 2 matches…I’ll take that (we scored 5 in total last year). All the more so, given we haven’t any real pace in the backline.

        Despite the moaning about this weekend, we are now already on 20 tries in this 6 Nations. Contrast that with last year, when there were 37 in total: http://www.espnscrum.com/six-nations-2014/rugby/story/181291.html – if that average keeps up, it will leave the championship in a better place than last year anyway.

  6. If I was happy with the performance against Scotland, the one against Wales doubled that. The Irish squad controlled the game to the point where Wales ran out of ideas after 20 minutes (throwing a line out short smacks of desperation when you’re not on top), but there was ample passion too, exemplified by O’Mahony, who seems to be stepping up as the heir to O’Connell as the player who lifts his side. To my mind, it was a better performance than the New Zealand game, where Ireland couldn’t maintain the immense effort of the first half all the way to the end. Here they did, with fine performances across the squad, all the way to the end. Too many good things to note them all, but I’d like to highlight the evident esprit de corps – D. Kearney and O’Mahony in particular seemed to be celebrating everything good that those around them did. Ally that to strength in depth and a solid plan and things are starting to look pretty promising.

  7. ruckinhell

     /  February 10, 2014

    For me, the most telling and important aspect of the match was when the replacements were brought on (tactically early for POC and Ross) and that when sprung forth they continued to make hay- 22 tackles made/none missed by the bench and influential inputs by Boss and Jackson with ball in hand (I’ll forgive Boss the low percentage reverse no look pass at the end of the game). McGrath, Cronin and Moore scrummaged powerfully, Tuohy stole a lineout and O’Donnell was swamping Welshman left right and centre. Finally we have an Irish coach who recognised that it’s a 23 man Test game, the bench isn’t a “break in case of emergency” reserve or a way of giving salutary 20 second caps to poor Handsome Leo.

    No doubt Schmidt is cooling the jets and the team will refocus for the auld enemy. I wouldn’t be surprised if we focus on attacking through the backs against a very solid English front 8 but an as of yet unproven backline. I don’t rate Twelvetrees and Burrell, while strong, looks raw. Marshall, and assuming Bowe is out, one one of Fitz or Zebo to add some more attacking nous. D’Arcy and Kearney og to lose out, through no fault of their own I would add.

    • Patrick O'Riordan

       /  February 10, 2014

      England’s defence seems to be based upon a very fast line speed so I can see Sexton trying to get the ball in behind and hoping for some favourable bounces like the French got. Ireland won’t be able to batter our way through and there hasn’t been that much guile from the backs to date.

  8. O’Mahony’s been the stand out player in the competition so far. Passion, eh? Get bent!

    Agree with all you say, but I feel we’ll need a bit more from 11-14 to win at Twickenham. BOD will stay put – and will be a benefit at HQ, for sure – but the other three slots are surely all under threat? Not that I think we would change all three. Bamm-Bamm vs D’Arcy is a decision to make again, while Zebo looked great at the weekend. Does anyone know the injury situation for Bowe and Luke Fitz? Last I heard TB was a maybe for England and LF was being assessed for availability for the match just finished.

    On Sunday: bit of a prosaic masterclass, which I will surely take because, in recent years, we’ve been occassionally brilliant, occassionally hyperaggressive, but mostly prosaically crap. If he can make high performances mundane Schmidt will have aced his job. Most encouraging.

  9. Did anyone see Philips stamp on POC’s calf well after whistle in last play before POC went off, filthy stuff even though it didn’t seem to do any damage, about 54 mins. Barnes should have binned Philips after 2nd warning but I can sympatise with Barnes position, ref’s need to be given more support to make those calls to bring respect for ref’s back into the game, what’s the point in warning someone if you don’t follow through. Never thought I’d defend Principal Barnes but players have a responsibility too and unless there’s repercussions for all this backchat and messing around, they’ll keep pushing it.

  10. Mary Hinge

     /  February 10, 2014

    And wasn’t it wonderful too to see poor old Mike Phillips lose the rag. Fine player once upon-a-time, but shot player now and his gracelessness now shines through ever clearer when the talent is no longer there to back up the belligerence.

  11. Buzz the England Fan

     /  February 10, 2014

    Great performance by Ireland and nice to see the Welsh get stuffed. That was the follow on performance you’d expect after the All Blacks game. Just one match late.

    England were abysmal at Murrayfield. Camped in the 22 the whole second half with total dominance and a miserable 7pts to show for all that effort.

    Twickenham will be different though. I think the mighty packs might cancel themselves out and, if that’s the case, your boys have the edge behind.

    But we’ll see. Playing at home after 2 games on the road will be a boost and if our stuttering centre partnership can hold its own against your legendary pairing it could be close. Sexton is now a class act and if the petulant twat version of Farrell shows up then we’re in trouble.

    • Hey Buzz, welcome to the blog. Great to have some English insight into the next game! It’s going to be a mighty tussle.

      The Murrayfield piych was a pudding so it was never going to be a day for free-flowing rugby. We’re delighted to see Dany Care justifying our expectations of him. He’s dragging Farrell kicking and screaming to the gainline. Our counter-ruck is going well so far, and we’ll need that to continue because if Care gets quick ball there are few better at delivering it to the 10.

      As you say, the two packs might cancel each other out. We haven’t shown much in terms of back play yet.

      • connachtexile

         /  February 10, 2014

        Did anyone else think Farrell kicked way to much in the Scottish game? Everytime England got into the Scottish 22 and went through 5 or 6 phases he kicked the ball away. I felt he was to impatient, he had the luxury of a 13-0 lead so he could afford to take his time and let his forwards make ground or keep the ball tiring the Scottish players out but it’s like he felt ‘gee we haven’t scored in 5 phases I’ll do a speculative kick’ which just let Scotland off the hook. It’s something he needs to work on.

      • Buzz

         /  February 10, 2014

        Well we don’t all have a fly-half like Sexton………..

        He’s competent but uninspiring, tends to play it by numbers and never off the cuff.

        I’m not gonna bore you with the England fly-half debate on here.

    • Paddy o

       /  February 10, 2014

      You guys will be very hard to beat buzz and you should really be two for two yourselves and on the back of your own Bnz near miss. It could easily be a four way tie by Monday morning! Perhaps this it is just because ireland are doing well, but is this not a great championship so far?

      • Buzz

         /  February 10, 2014

        Well you do tend to enjoy a 6N a bit more if your own team is doing well. Mind you, I actually enjoyed Fickou’s winning try against us as a great piece of rugby theatre – it’s what makes Union such a great game.

        It’s a good champkonship thus far but a bit of a shame that Scotland are so poor. Mind you, they’ll probably beat France.

  12. Like many others, the thing that has pleased me about our start to the Six Nations has been the cohesiveness of the squad. We were all worried, when SO’B was ruled out by injury, but sure our backrow done magnificently without him – Henry and PO’M growing in stature in the process. Having also watched England v France and Scotland, I think we can beat them. For me their weakest link is Farrell. I think he’s emotionally immature, and if we can harry and upset him, that could be the decider. On top of that I think Twelvetrees is pretty useless. To come back to the squad and why JS’s work there impresses me. Johnny Sexbomb – God between us and all harm – could come a cropper next Saturday against Bayonne. In such a scenario do I still think Ireland with PJ at 10 and Madser on the bench could get the better of Farrell? Yes I do.

    • p.s. the icing on the cake in the Wales match was Scott Williams’ attempt to take BO’D out, only to succeed in injuring himself so badly, that he had to leave the field himself. Hilarious!!!!

  13. LumberingForward

     /  February 10, 2014

    Re Peter O’Mahony, he has had two stormers in a row now. From a somewhat biased Ulster perspective the most significant thing about his two performances was I’d always felt before that, while he had his moments, he was essentially minding the jersey for Stephen Ferris, should he ever regain full fitness, and that should that happen he wouldn’t be able to challenge Fez, whose return would instantly improve the team and it’s prospects. On POM’s current form no 6 in the NH would be in the team ahead of him. Superb stuff. Though I grimaced a bit when he kept haranguing Barnes after that late line out, despite being told he’d be binned if he didn’t pipe down. Hope Schmidt or one of the older players had a word after.

  14. Cian

     /  February 10, 2014

    What an absolutely brilliant performance. Watching it in a pub in the wilds of west Wales only added to the pleasure. Schmidt deserves massive credit for the strategy, and POM and Sexton in particular deserve credit for being absolutely indispensable to its implementation. It was a joy to see Ireland make mostly soak tackles, allowing Wales’ big carriers to make a few yards but then dominating the breakdown and putting in monster hits only when the time was right. That type of dominant, game-dictating display was one I’ve been waiting a while to see Sexton produce in green against serious opponents.

    I have to single out Devin Toner for praise, too, because this match was the first that made me really consider him a quality performer on the international stage. While others thought he reached that level vs. NZ and Scotland I wasn’t convinced, now I reckon he’s really come up with the goods. It’s nice to see a steady improvement of a player from Pro12 journeyman to international standard lock.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 10, 2014

      I’d hold off on Toner, lets face it, we knew the Welsh tight five wasnt the best. I’d wait until the summer to make a judgement on whether he’s made the leap.

      • Cian

         /  February 10, 2014

        Depends what we’re looking for him to leap towards. He’s not among the best locks in Europe or the world, but I doubt many teams would be delighted to see him named against them now, and I’d feel confident he’ll do a good job for Ireland. As I said I reckon he’s international standard, not world class.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  February 10, 2014

          A heap of players can be international class if you play to their strengths, Toner, POM, Murray, our current wingers, for example, its when you want to start winning against big teams/things that you need guys to do that little bit extra to push you over the line. I reckon we will win the six nations, if we beat England, soley due to us having a superior tactician in Schmidt rather then a better man for man squad.

          Toner reminds me of Issac Ross tbh, just too lightweight for his height.

          • Cian

             /  February 10, 2014

            Well I’m delighted to have a coach who can play to our strengths, and winning based on tactical superiority is just as good as any other form of victory. POM and Murray have the ability to be in the top tier in their position, Murray already is very near it, it’s just that you (and some others, to be fair) don’t rate their particular strengths as valuable based on a subjective aesthetic view of rugby.

            In other positions, like second row and the wings, injury has left Ireland without any potentially world class options. There’s nothing we can do about that, and I don’t see the point in complaining about it. Let’s just be happy that the players who are there are carrying out their assigned roles efficiently and we’re winning our matches.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  February 10, 2014

            LOL, I dont mean to come across as “complaining”, merely trying to give realistic view of out talent level . I think we are outcoaching teams at this stage, I wouldnt be delighted, satisfied, we havent reinvented the wheel, yet.
            Id agree on Murray being top tier eventually, if he continues his incremental progress, POM world class? Not a chance, unless he gets on the IGF1 and turns into a proper 6 physically, and then fills in the holes in his game.

          • Yossarian

             /  February 11, 2014

            would agree we are out coaching teams at the moment. Scott Johnson is below standard in scotland, PSA looks clueless with the French(who would have thought we would look back at Laporte as the golden era of French Coaches!) Brunell is good with what he has. Lancaster is developing as a coach but naive team selection(nowell first cap away to France!?removal of Care) Gatland hasn’t become a bad coach overnight but got out thought at the weekend.
            Schmidt gives us the edge but the players still have to do it on the pitch. Thankfully with Murray and Sexton we have half backs who implement the game required perfectly.

  15. LumberingForward

     /  February 10, 2014

    Cian – tackling was a joy to watch. For me though the absolute tackling highlight was O’Connell going low on Dan Lydiate in the fourth minute. I’d read during the Lions how O’Connell said Lydiate was the best tackler he’d seen and worked with him for hours after training ended to learn his chop tackling technique. It wasn’t quite at the ankles but watching Paulie scythe down Lydiate, leaving him exposed for POM to jackle him Warburton style and win a big penalty was brilliant. Talk about corporate knowledge!

    • Cian

       /  February 10, 2014

      That was my moment of the match too! “I reckon I’ve got the hang of this now Dan, thanks for that”.

  16. SydneyT

     /  February 10, 2014

    What a nice feeling it is to watch Ireland dominate a top ranked team and follow it through without having to worry about fading and holding our breadth for the last 20 minutes. Last time I had that feeling was most likely against England a few seasons ago.
    I do wonder what Rory Best has to do to be fully appreciated. I thought he had a marvellous game yet only got 7.5 from the IT ratings. I didn’t even think they gave half marks. He made a steal that O’Mahony got the plaudits for and all.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 10, 2014

      I think if he displayed a bit more chest thumping-eyes bulging-passhun, he’d have gotten that extra .5 to push him to an 8/10.

    • Stevo

       /  February 11, 2014

      What does Rory Best have to do to be fully appreciated by the Irish Times….not play for Ulster?

  17. Leinsterlion

     /  February 10, 2014

    Pragmatic, prosaic, destructive etc. all sum up what was a tactical masterclass, Schmidt identified the weaknesses in the Welsh team and attacked them, waited for Wales to respond and then continued with the same gameplan when they couldnt. I was going to make a Trimble/Kearney vs Cory Jane/Zac Gildford, Un-Zee coachs post 07 implosion Henrys/Hansens preference for hard working, footballing wingers, and how we are now a poverty version of Un-Zee with no ball carriers. But the best comparison is really Kidneys/Kiss choke tackle masterclass against Australia. Since then we have struggled to follow up performances, the fact Schmidt has now had this team tactically “on” for 2.5 full games in a row. Is that the most consistency since EOS in 07?

    What Schmidt has brought to the team speaks for itself, a cohesive gameplan, the key now is what he come up with to deal with England, (forget about France they are Picamoles, Fofana and Dulin, stop them game over, they are not a team) we have had nothing really in terms of “attacking” rugby, our backrow was non existent in terms of carrying or interlinking. Luckily England have the same problem but If they get their big carriers moving they could shade it, but I people said the same thing about Wales….

    As for changes to the team, well It depends on what Schmidt has planned, he clearly see players doing a specific role(specialisation, imagine that) eg POM as a jackling , tail line out 6, and eh thats about. He is going to have to add more variety or options to our pretty limited attack, whether thats a reshuffle of the backrow or bringing in someone else at thirteen(McFadden) to give us go forward, idk. But I’d concur with WOC, that we need something extra, tactically and selection wise if we are to do a solid England team.

    I’d disagree with you on the Triple Crown though, Its the Johnstons Paint trophy of the International stage, its meaningless, following up our performances is more important then a meaningless plate imo.

    • Actually quite a good comment, aside from the dig at POM. Just to note, out of interest, that O’Mahony was tackling at roughly the same rate as Henry and slightly behind Heaslip in the Scotland game, i.e. 9 attempted tackles in 65 minutes is basically the same as 11 in 80, which Henry made, and only marginally less than 12 in 80, which Heaslip made. He was slightly less visible in the Wales game in terms of tackle numbers, making 9 attempts over 80 minutes to Heaslip and Henry’s 11, which is nevertheless still not a huge gap, and probably not helped by the fact that he shifted into the row once Tuohy was unfortunately injured. So the idea that he’s not working hard in defence outside of jackalling is inaccurate, even before you consider his non-jackalling breakdown work. (None of this is to suggest that he couldn’t be more accurate in his tackles, as well as putting in bigger tackles, of course.)

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 10, 2014

        I dont think I have called POM (under Schmidt) lazy or not hard working in defence. My only criticism of his D, is as you point out, accuracy and hardness of his hits and work rate in tallying up said hits, hes a soft or easy tackler, he gets his man, but its not very technically proficient or jarring and its only now that his tackle count is befitting of an international backrow(no matter their role).

        • “I dont think I have called POM (under Schmidt) lazy or not hard working in defence.”
          Fair enough but you immediately call O’Mahony work rate into question.
          “My only criticism of his D…work rate in tallying up said hits”

          A few comments above you’d say you’d drop him for Ferris or Sean O’Brien. Thats Ferris who hasn’t had a decent string of games without injury in go only knows how long. I like Ferris an awful lot but there’s no way hell he should or will replace O’Mahony in this Championship. This is the first time in a long time where our back row looks solidly balanced.

          And by dint of having Chris Henry (an out and out 7), O’Mahony(a jack of all trades back row whose played a fair amount of rugby at 7) and Heaslip (who has played more like a 7 than an 8 due to O’Brien) we may not be smashing the opposition backwards on the gainline but they’re finding hit hard to get quick ball against the Irish and the momentum associated with that.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  February 11, 2014

            Well, up until this series POMs tackle count was substantially below the every other backrow on the park in every game we played, thats what my reference to “workrate in D” was.
            As for “dropping him” for SOB or Ferris, obviously its hypothetical as both would have to fit and in form, on their day both are substantially better players, and 6’s, how could you argue otherwise?

            Agree totally, the backrow is working excellentlly on defence, but we have seen absoloutely nothing on attack, very poor in terms of interlink play and ball carrying, we cant go through the rest of the 6 nations with so little input from our backrow.

        • SOB is obviously a far better player than POM and more than likely to remain that way indefinitely. However it’s no sure thing Ferris is going to come back and hit his form from the Lions in 2009 before he got injured. How long has it been since he got a decent run of games? Sadly it’s more likely he’ll go the way of Flannery and have a series of short-lived returns before an early retirement.

          Also if Ferris and SOB both come back would you start them both? Hardly our most balanced backrow.

          The game plan on Saturday was pretty much guaranteeing a lack of any opportunity for interlink play. What was Ireland’s highest phase count? Was at the match so didn’t have luxury of the phase counter. The Scotland game being the first game of the Six Nations was always going to be a somewhat cautious affair. I think the team in general will be more adventurous as the tournament goes on. Especially seeing as teams have beaten the French in Heineken Cup by virtue of throwing the ball around and running them into ground.

          I do think that backrow has what it takes to offer the interlink play you so desperately desire. And O’Mahony is as likely to offer it to you as the rest of that backrow. He has played in the back once don’t you know.

  18. Yossarian

     /  February 10, 2014

    The individual battles won all over the park was a great feature of the match i thought. twice Hibbard ran at Best, twice Best turned him over. Likewise Kearney out wrestling/out jumping Halfpenny a few times led directly or indirectly to points. Heaslip vs Faletau ; toner v Coombs POC v A.W Jones etc. all over the park we were getting the edge over our opposite number. Superb collective will.
    Anyone got thoughts on how we will take on England?lineout maul has been prominent against Scots and Welsh but we won’t have front five superiority against England.

  19. Murt

     /  February 10, 2014

    Did anyone else notice POC putting his arm around BOD when the teams were lining up to meet Michael D? Maybe I’m reading too much into it but it looked like two men with a point to prove geeing themselves up to demolish the Welsh pretenders. I don’t really buy into the whole O’Driscoll – Gatland thing but but both POC and BOD were overlooked in one way or another during the Lions tour. Pride is a fierce motivator and I thought the gesture was a sign of good things to come. Both old timers showed they can still have their stand out moments (O’Connell’s early tackle on Lydiate and O’Driscoll getting up with a grin after the Williams tackle) so hopefully they feel they have some more points to prove over the coming games!

    • “Did anyone else notice POC putting his arm around BOD when the teams were lining up to meet Michael D?”

      My guess is it was, “Now you’ll know how I feel talking to you”.

      • Murt

         /  February 10, 2014

        Ha! They were saying on RTE that seeing the Welsh players beside the president would give viewers an idea of the size of the Welsh team – I thought that was a tad unfair!

  20. curates_egg

     /  February 10, 2014

    By the way, how bad was Barnes?

  21. kevin

     /  February 10, 2014

    I haven’t been as happy with an Irish performance in god knows how long. All the hallmarks of the Kidney era (Blowing a lead every match, not scoring in the 2nd half, a lack of game plan, shoehorn selections, dreadful bench management, shite team spirit, POC’s awful handling, POM’s petulance, DOC & ROG’s selections) seem to have been eradicated. As ye perfectly summed up, its been 2 performances of cold blooded professionalism, and this can only help lead us to the consistency we all crave. Darcy, POM, POC and Trimble all look reborn amd Sexton really looks to be benefitting from being the undisputed main man. The next match and the gameplan we employ will be intriguing to say the least. IMO if we play as we did against Wales we’ll lose. Despite how well they’re playing I could see Schmidt making an away style selection with McCarthy and Henderson coming in for Toner and POM. Even though all our backs have excelled in their specific roles, we still look desperately short of creativity. I’d have Fitz as a cert and probably Bowe too (creative as well as our 2 biggest backs).

    • According to Wikipedia Kearney Jnr and Fitz are same weight. And Trimble is a stone heavier. It could very well be wrong but Trimble to my mind would look to be a good bit heavier than Fitz.

      I didn’t think Trimble deserved to be there, initially having him behind Zebo, Bowe, Fitz, Gilroy, Earls and McFadden but he has played very well with his only mistake that I can think of being the single poor pass to Kearney Snr for the knock on.

      Definitely doesn’t deserve to be dropped for Bowe, who has yet to play for Ulster since injury and frankly been quiet enough all season, or Fitzgerald whose yet to play since injury as well.

    • Fitz is not by any stretch of the imagination one of our two biggest backs.

      • kevin

         /  February 10, 2014

        Who’s bigger?. Downey, Dennis Hurley and Matt Healy. @Thoughtless far from it, did I noy just single out two munstermen for praise? but Im certainly against picking a shot 35 year old ROG having the worst season in 14 years, or DOC who was being outplayed at his own club by Ryan, and who’s been outplayed by literally every single second row whos replaced him since.

        • Murray, Sexton, Zebo, Marshall, Henshaw, Trimble, Rob Kearney,..

          • curates_egg

             /  February 11, 2014

            Zebo, Marshall, Henshaw… I know the English backline is nothing special but that is a Russian roulette backline right there. I’d like to see all of those three get gametime…but sweet Jesus not at the same time (certainly not at this point anyway).

          • Ha, I was actually just listing players who were bigger than Luke Fitz and accidentally picked a full backline!

    • Bob

       /  February 10, 2014

      I take it you dislike all things Munster??

  22. Buccaneer

     /  February 10, 2014

    I’m delighted for Trimble, nobody seems to rate him south of lisburn but I have always liked him. Joe has found a way to get the best out of him (so far) and he has repaid the faith. Himself and DK were perfect for the gameplan.

    I am genuinely excited by the depth being built at lock, back row and back 3. Not just injury cover but options that offer something different. Next project is centre and front row. Imagine!!

    I don’t expect to see too much changing for Twickenham but I would love to see some rotation against italy

  23. I’m liking Drico’s new crash ball style, he’s still quite quick over the first 5 metres and he’s able to get over the gain-line if he takes the ball at top speed rather than trying to take the outside shoulder, what a clever player, he’s always been able to modify his game brilliantly.

  24. labrecha1

     /  February 10, 2014

    …..I’d have a strong hunch himself and Joe have been discussing the best way to get the most out of him during his swansong.

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