The David Corkery column: Dogged Ireland must improve in key areas or Wales will hammer them

The David Corkery column: Dogged Ireland must improve in key areas or Wales will hammer them
John Cooney of Ireland is tackled by George Horne of Scotland. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A wholehearted and dogged win.

Still, there are areas that will need much consideration and reworking over the next few days.

With a new management team on its first test drive and a good few alterations to the player combinations and structural plays, there was always going to be a high risk of Ireland stumbling and stuttering. That’s exactly how it panned out.

You could argue that Scotland probably deserved to win, but the word deserved doesn’t really hold much weight when it comes to test match rugby. At times the play was ugly and when you concede 14 penalties as Scotland did, you only have yourself to blame.

Ireland fared only slightly better with 10 infringements. Scottish captain Stuart Hogg inexplicably lost control of the ball having crossed the Irish try line, which summed the game up. It was a schoolboy error of monumental proportions.

Scotland clearly arrived in Dublin with nothing but a win on their minds and this was unambiguously visible by the ferocity in which they went about their business.

There will not be too many times that you see players like Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Bundee Aki and Iain Henderson getting landed back on their arses. This was complemented by how the Scots went about clearing out rucks and recklessly smashing any attempts by Ireland looking to maul their way forward.

Scotland were also by far the more adventurous side and were it not for a few slight errors in judgment, could have crossed the Irish try line on at least three more occasions.

Peter O'Mahony tackled by Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn and Rory Sutherland. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Peter O'Mahony tackled by Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn and Rory Sutherland. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

The margins of acceptable error at this level of rugby are so small that the inches you get away with during the Champions Cup are dramatically lessened. Both sides will have to show considerable improvements in their level of marksmanship if they are to have any hopes of living with England, Wales or France.

I can 100% guarantee you that Ireland’s preparations for Wales next weekend will not involve too many full-on contact sessions. I wouldn’t be so worried about the knocks and bruises as that kind of stuff comes with the territory but when it comes to the head, there can be no doubts whatsoever.

Caelan Doris was mere minutes into his debut when he suffered a heavy blow to the head. Dave Kilcoyne also suffered a suspected concussion minutes after his introduction in the second half.

Garry Ringrose was withdrawn with a hand injury during the half-time interval while Tadhg Furlong had to limp off in the closing minutes. This is why you need a squad of substantial depth and quality.

Johnny Sexton was as solid as ever and his ability to stay cool in moments of high pressure were as evident as they have been for the last decade.

The captain ended up scoring all of Ireland’s points. His presence is invaluable as a player and a leader.

However, for me, it is essential that Ross Byrne starts in at least two of the four remaining games. No team can be over-reliant on just one man.

Wales, as expected, demolished the hapless Italians and their participation in the competition must surely now be up for debate.

Just imagine the excitement of having countries like Japan or Argentina competing in the Six Nations. The blazers must either look at introducing a relegation system or look at inviting different countries to participate.

Conor Murray did not have a bad game and did all that was required however, I truly believe that Ulster’s John Cooney must start next week.

Cooney who has been lighting up the Champions Cup with Man of the Match performances has that spark of genius that will be required to win this game. Should Ireland play as they did on Saturday against the Welsh, they will certainly lose.

The Irish scrum will be obliterated if their height isn’t lowered, the maul will become a liability if they don’t tighten up and Wales will not make the same unforced errors that Scotland made with the try-line within touching distance.

Wales are just too good and too ruthless to let that happen.

Farrell will need his players to up their creative and clinical edge by a good 25% and stop kicking the ball away when they enter the oppositions half.

Keeping the ball in hand and shifting the point of contact far away from the previous breakdown is the only way Ireland will prevail next week. The Welsh defensive structures are water tight in close and their only weaknesses are on the outer extremes of the field.

Saturday’s win was great but now we must build on it by continually shifting away from the Joe Schmidt game plan of playing rugby by numbers and encouraging a heads-up philosophy.

Wales will be a completely different challenge and that’s is a guarantee.

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