It was great to see Peter O'Mahony back to his commanding best for Ireland

It was great to see Peter O'Mahony back to his commanding best for Ireland

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony celebrates Quinn Roux scoring their first try against Wales on Friday. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

AS Welsh teams go, this is one of the poorest I’ve seen.

I guess Ireland can only play what turns up and the Boys in Green did do well. However, Welsh rugby needs to have a serious look at itself.

For a nation that fuels its engine on pride and tradition, I don’t think I’ve witnessed such a characterless and unimaginative display of headless rugby in a long, long time.

I realise that Wales are going through a restructuring coaching period, but for a bunch of very well-paid professional players to produce 80 minutes of effort that was more like 15 flummoxed chickens running around a field... simply unacceptable.

Wayne Pivac, who assumed the coaching reigns after Warren Gatland departed after his 13-year tenure, will most certainly have many fingers pointed in his direction. It’s the players who on this occasion should be reprimanded, not the coach.

Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones maybe the most capped rugby player in the world, but when he reviews this game over the next few days and evaluates his contribution, I do believe he might consider hanging up his boots very soon.

Coming into this game Wales had lost their last five matches and you would have assumed that they would have used the associated suffering and pain to muster up some kind of hostile response, but it was not to be. They threw a few handbags in the beginning but as the game grew old, so did their challenge.

Everything they threw at Ireland was repelled with interest and if they were still playing now, they would be no closer to producing a passage of play that you would view as productive and meaningful.

Ireland’s defence which looked conspicuously frayed against France two weeks ago was so much better on this occasion and not only did they win the gain-line battles, they very effectively turned defence into a serious offensive weapon.

On the very few occasions when the Welsh attacked and managed to recycle the ball, their half-backs had to deal with a retreating pack of forwards, a disordered presentation of the ball and their facial expression portrayed a look of confusion as to what they should do next.

Ireland's backrow were super throughout the game and Peter O’Mahony had his best runout in a long time.

Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

O’Mahony, who took over the captaincy when Johnny Sexton had to retire with a hamstring strain just before the 30-minute mark, was in the thick of all that Ireland did well and it was great to see him back to his usual best.

Partnered by the industrious Josh Van Der Flier on the flank and man of the match Caelan Doris in the number eight jersey, the trio worked seamlessly as a division. When one was missing from the action the other two were queuing up to make the next tackle or receive the next pass and that is how you judge a good backrow unit.

The injury to Sexton ahead of next week’s trip to Twickenham is a bit of a worry however if he is out it will allow for Billy Burns, Ross Byrne, Harry Byrne or even JJ Hanrahan to gain some very valuable game time in what is best described as a very hostile international venue.

Billy Burns replaces injured Johnny Sexton. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Billy Burns replaces injured Johnny Sexton. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Ireland won this game by a margin of 22 points, but they probably left at least another 15 to 20 points behind them and against the better sides like England and France they must start turning every single visit to the opposition 22 into some form of score.

While I will always have an issue with foreign players donning an Irish jersey, it was delightful to see the electric James Lowe light up the field every time he got his hands on the ball albeit, he really needs a trip to the hairdressers.

The only other Irish players that could turn nothing into something were Brian O’Driscoll, Simon Geoghegan and Simon Zebo. Andrew Conway also has this mesmeric capability on occasions, but of the other three, two of them are well retired and one is playing his rugby in France, which is sadly viewed as a mortal sin in the eyes of the IRFU.

Racing’s Simon Zebo. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Racing’s Simon Zebo. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Jamison Gibson-Park who had a bit of an armchair ride because of his packs dominance up front did all that was asked of him and it was such a pleasure to see the ball passed at pace from the base of most rucks.

Gone seems to be the, kick the ball high in the air approach to gaining territory but the lack of vision in Ireland's midfield is still a major issue for Andy Farrell and his coaching ticket.

Hugo Keenan was solid in the number fifteen jersey and looked lively in attack. He still has a bit to learn about positioning, but he is young and is not afraid to have a cut.

I think the likes of CJ Stander, Bundee Aki and Conor Murray will be reinstated to the starting 15 for next week’s game, but there shouldn’t be too many more changes.

This the second game in the new Autumn Nations Cup will certainly be a stiffer test, however, if Ireland's defence can maintain the same kind of starved pack mentality when shutting down England’s attack, they might just have a chance.

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