The David Corkery column: Ireland yet to convince they are on course to make an impact at the Rugby World Cup

The David Corkery column: Ireland yet to convince they are on course to make an impact at the Rugby World Cup
Ireland's Peter O'Mahony and John Ryan celebrate after the win over Russia. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THIS was never going to be about the result. 

Despite the Russians' great physical condition and commendable attitude, Ireland were always going to win with a bonus point.

For everybody watching in Japan and at home, this was all about the performance, the pace Ireland played and, most importantly, the mindset.

After the disastrous loss to the hosts, there has been a lot of negativity.

It started well and by half time three of the four required tries for the bonus point were in the bag, however, the performance wasn’t where it should have been.

The inclusion of Johnny Sexton seemed to make a big difference but again our tactics were all wrong. Instead of using the creative talents like Gary Ringrose, Andrew Conway and Keith Earls in the wider channels we looked to challenge the Russians in the one area where they are exceptionally strong, which is around the fringes.

When you look at how New Zealand and South Africa are destroying the lesser nations in this World Cup, it is just impossible to see how we can progress beyond the quarter-final stages.

I don’t want to take anything from the Russian performance, but this is a game where Ireland should have racked up 50 points at a canter.

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony with Andrei Ostrikov of Russia in the game yesterday. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Ireland's Peter O'Mahony with Andrei Ostrikov of Russia in the game yesterday. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The one very encouraging aspect from Ireland's point of view was that they kept a clean score sheet. In every game no matter how big the discrepancies are between sides, the lesser side will always be afforded one or two try-scoring opportunities.

Russia’s main attacking threat seemed to be through the boot of fly-half Ramil Gaisin, who sent the ball skyward far more often then he should of. Apart from one or two half-line breaks Ireland easily dealt with whatever was thrown at them and Irelands back three coped adequately with the aerial bombardments from Gaisin.

What I was hoping to see more of in this game was a willingness to move the ball from deeper areas of the field.

Everyone knows that Joe Schmidt is a coach that likes his players to follow his blueprint to the letter of the law and running the ball from deep is rarely an option. 

The problem here is that when Ireland hopefully meet South Africa or New Zealand in the quarters is that they will easily be able to cope with our one out runner system and this will leave us with no option but to kick the ball.

To realistically compete in a World Cup you must have a complete game plan that encompasses the ability to change what you do, and we simply do not have this.

Were it not for the Russians' basic mistakes, Ireland would have struggled to achieve the four-try bonus point and that is very worrying. Maybe Joe Schmidt might still be holding something back but the knock out stages in a World Cup is not exactly the place to be trying out something new.

At this stage, I’m sick of saying it but the unwillingness to take risks and play the game with flair and panache will be the sword they fall on.

I was shocked to see that Sexton did not return to the field after the half time break and this is extremely worrying. Without Sexton Ireland might as well come home now and he cannot be wrapped in bubble wrap anymore.

From now on Schmidt must field his strongest team possible and leave them out there until there is no option but to bring in the substitutes. Cohesiveness and understanding are fundamental ingredients for all great sides and at this stage in the campaign, we don't have either. 

Ireland are not a settled side and there are far too many ifs, buts and arguments to be put forward as to who should start and where they should play.

Ireland's Niall Scannell wipes the ball down as a result of high humidity in the stadium. Picture: INPHO/Jayne Russell
Ireland's Niall Scannell wipes the ball down as a result of high humidity in the stadium. Picture: INPHO/Jayne Russell

To think that after four years of planning that we still don’t know what our strongest 15 is, is slightly concerning.

For example, if we were playing in the World Cup final tomorrow who would be our number nine, what back row would be chosen, who would our wingers be and what centre partnership would hold the best balance.

Luke McGrath is certainly playing better than Conor Murray and with Rhys Ruddock producing a man of the match performance yesterday, should these players be included in Ireland's best team?

The injury to the recently arrived Jordi Murphy doesn’t look good and Joey Carbery’s long run of lower limb problems seems to have returned once more.

Ireland now have a nice long rest period of nine days before their last pool game against Samoa and this should give them ample time to rest and nurse the various bumps and bruises. It would also be advised that the players use this period to get some down time and get away from each other.

Playing in a World Cup, living in five-star hotels and having your every need catered for might sound wonderful, however, there are times when it can become suffocating. The last thing you want to see is another team room, pool table, a dartboard or table-tennis table.

Physically the players will be fine but mentally they need a break away from everything and that includes the media. Most of the stuff the players tell the journalists anyway is either mundane or scripted and that can also be a hard thing to do.

If I were Schmidt, I’d give the players a few days off from everything and have them come back fresh and hungry for a do or die game against Samoa.

This is a game Ireland again should win with a bonus point, but Samoa will have nothing to lose and they unquestionably have the ability to hurt us.

From here on in we should really see things heating up.

More in this section

Sponsored Content