David Corkery: Ireland impress but Italy offer nothing to Six Nations at this stage

David Corkery: Ireland impress but Italy offer nothing to Six Nations at this stage

Ireland's CJ Stander wins a line out ball against Italy in the Six Nations win. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

A DREAM start for the new Ireland caps, but further proof if it was ever needed that Italy should be nowhere near this level of competition.

It is of no use for the normally-spirited Azzurri to be at the wrong end of hammerings in every game. And no good for a tournament that is trying to attract a larger television audience either.

It’s been six years now since Italy have won a Six Nations game. They are so far off the required level a decent Irish amateur club side could beat them.

Before we get down to the nuts and bolts of what did and didn’t materialise, I just thought I’d refer to the two-metre gap that the players had to observe during the national anthems because it did make me giggle.

At a time when there is very little to smile about in our lives, I just thought it was comical that the players were unable to adopt their normal shoulder to shoulder posture as the anthems belted out over the loudspeakers. All I could think about was that very shortly after the game commenced that these players would be dripping in sweat and playing in a sport where hand to hand physical combat is inevitable.

For those of you who have never played the game, I can tell you that when you engage in a scrum, form a maul, tackle an opponent or clear a ruck there is a 100% chance of you swapping some kind of bodily fluid. So, if the HSE, World Rugby or the IRFU think that having the players stand apart before the kick-off is going to help reduce the diffusion of this virus, they must have received their facts from Camp Donald Trump.

Anyhow, we are grateful that the game went ahead and hopefully there will be no adverse ramifications.

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale is tackled by Carlo Canna and Luca Morisi of Italy. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale is tackled by Carlo Canna and Luca Morisi of Italy. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

The most pleasing aspect of this annihilation was that there were so many new names in the starting 15 and they didn’t let the occasion slip them by. Let there be no question about it that this was a nice game for the newcomers to sample the intensity of international rugby.

Flanker Will Connors was awarded Man of the Match but Conor Murray had a stormer and he certainly rewarded Andy Farrell's faith. It was by far the Limerick man’s best performance over the last three years and it was great to see him pass the ball at pace rather than kicking the leather off it.

Connor’s Leinster teammate Hugo Keenan announced his arrival on the international landscape by scoring two first-half tries and was unlucky to have a third disallowed for an obstruction earlier in the build-up.

Yet another product of the Leinster Academy conveyor belt Keenan was not afraid to go hunting for the try line and this is exactly the kind of player that Ireland needs. I still think Simon Zebo is a better allrounder, but Keenan should only improve from here on in.

The Irish front row of Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter look as if they have spent a lot of the previous lockdown time in the gym and their upper body power especially at the breakdown was evident very early on.

Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan, who formed the engine room for Ireland's scrum, were moderately quiet. However, I always believed that second rows should never really be the centre of attention because if they are, they are not doing the hard-grafting jobs they were designed for. 

I can guarantee you that a second row with a high try tally will never have a high tackle count.

The news that Gary Ringrose suffered a broken jaw early in the game will be hard felt by the Irish coaching ticket because there is no other midfield player who has the footwork of Ringrose.

Believe it or not, if Ireland beat the French in Paris next Saturday and do so by scoring four tries they will be crowned Six Nations champions. By not having the creative genius of Ringrose to keep the French honest, I believe Ireland will be too predictable.

Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, who replaced the injured Ringrose, and Chris Farrell are possible candidates to fill the numbers 12 and 13 jerseys for next week's game. They are all way too similar in how they look to obtain yardage beyond opposing defences and the French will be ready for them.

Can Ireland win next week? Yes, but can they score four tries against a French side that are also hunting for championship glory? I don’t think so.

The first question Andy Farrell’s charges must answer next week is the physical one. Should they fail to match what the French throw at them, they will end up chasing a target that they will not be able to reach.

Let's hope and pray that everything goes to plan in the preparations for this game and that we are presented whit a classic.

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