David Corkery: Ireland were eaten alive by England in contact 

David Corkery: Ireland were eaten alive by England in contact 

Ireland's Andrew Porter is tackled by Will Stuart of England. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

A GAME of nothing, dominated by a team who showed just how you can turn defence into a very effective weapon.

I am still trying to work out the actual relevance of this Autumn Nations Cup but it at least it gives us something to watch.

Having been called 'soft' in the week before facing England in Twickenham, you'd expect a backlash. It didn't happen.

The comment was made by former Munster and current South African coach Rassie Erasmus in Chasing The Sun, the documentary about the World Cup victory. Referring to Wales before their semi-final Erasmus stated, "They are not softies, they're not like Ireland,” 

I wouldn't agree but I thought Ireland would have used this comment to lay down a sterner challenge here.

Billy Vunipola, 23, Sam Underhill, 20, Tom Curry, 23, and Maro Itoje 25. The figures after these English players' names aren’t their ages, it represents their incredible individual tackle count and just goes to show that possession isn’t always required to win.

Like laser-guided missiles hitting and obliterating their intended targets, each and every English player was fully committed to immobilising anything in a green jersey that came careering towards them. In doing so they turned Ireland's attack into a complete shambles.

If you were to trust the statistical evidence that supports this game, you would be easily forgiven for thinking that Ireland dominated on the road to victory: 68% possession and 72% territory. Totals that would normally be associated with the winning team. 

However, on this occasion, building around a rock-solid fortified line of in-your-face resistance, England left the field with their heads held high.

England's Ben Youngs kicks the ball clear. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
England's Ben Youngs kicks the ball clear. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

I’m not going to suggest Ireland applied the cleverest of tactics. At times their policy of giving the ball to one-out runners time and time again seemed as clever as sending a portly chicken into a pride of lions.

Not only did the English defenders win nearly every confrontation and gain-line battle they also very successfully slowed down the speed at which Jamison Gibson-Park could distribute the ball. Slow ball at this level of rugby is practically useless, unless you have someone like Jonah Lomu at the receiving end.

The injury Johnny Sexton picked up against Wales handed Ross Byrne the number 10 jersey and while he didn’t exactly set the world alight, he was completely thwarted by his forwards' inability to give him any kind of worthwhile ball.

Apart from Ireland's shambolic lineouts, which will need serious work, the quality and speed of ball from the breakdown was nowhere good enough. When you receive static ball as a fly-half, your chances of producing positive outcomes are rather limited.

You either give a hospital-pass to your teammate or put the head down yourself and take the wrath of a few headless backrowers. The other option is to aimlessly kick the ball away.

Byrne like most out-halves needs a solid supply of go-forward ball in order to shine and it would be completely unwarranted to point the finger of blame at him for this loss. Personally, I don’t think any player should be criticised on this occasion because the English forwards were so good at how they went about implementing their strategy.

Ireland captain James Ryan with the pack. Picture: INPHO/Craig Mercer
Ireland captain James Ryan with the pack. Picture: INPHO/Craig Mercer

However, what I would do is ask a few questions of the Irish coaching ticket.

When your plan A isn’t exactly working as you intended, you normally change to plan B. However, this didn’t happen and the Irish players kept on heading into that pride of demonic lions who devoured them.

When the game was still within striking distance at halftime, the direction of the abundant supply of possession should have been altered. It wasn’t and the English backrow just kept on topping up their tackle count as the Irish Kamikaze runners kept on coming.

Apart from Peter O’Mahony, who had a magnificent game and worked tirelessly for the full 80 minutes, there is unquestionably a need for some of the other Irish forwards to up their work-rate, especially those in the front row.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again there is no point in having two players with similar capabilities occupying Ireland’s midfield.

Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell are very good at their primary roles, which is to carry ball and get in beyond their opposing number. Yet they have zero creative abilities and as a partnership they are so easy to defend against. 

What Ireland need in this area of the field is a player like Keith Earls, whose natural creativity can find space in the most hopeless of situations.

This game won't exactly go down in history as one of the greatest between the nations. 

It needs to be noted by the Irish management though, that their players must have the tools to modify how they go about producing try-scoring opportunities. Trying to knock holes in reinforced walls with blunt hammers is a braindead approach.

Next week's game against Georgia who England put 40 unanswered points on will be interesting and will get Farrell and co back to winning ways.

Loads of questions and lots to do.

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