David Corkery: Ireland win was great but raised far more questions than it answered

We can expect a much tougher and more physical challenge next Saturday when England come to town
David Corkery: Ireland win was great but raised far more questions than it answered

Ireland forwards coach Paul O'Connell. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

AS ugly and unconvincing a win as your ever likely to see, but oh boy did Ireland need it.

On a Six Nations weekend that commenced on Saturday with the now compulsory trashing of Italy to the much anticipated arm-wrestle between England and France, and then on to this tie that Ireland really should have closed out long before the eighty minutes had elapsed.

Maybe it is the lack of atmosphere or just how the world is at this point, but unless something spellbinding transpires next weekend, it will be a Six Nations that will go down in history as one of the most uninteresting and dullest to date.

Thankfully, there were no red cards brandished this weekend however, if you were looking for a talking point to discuss thus far, you would have to say that the no empathy towards dangerous play shown by the match day officials would be the major talking point and this is a sad reflection on the quality of rugby that is being played.

Italy’s participation in this competition is now officially a joke.

Ireland's CJ Stander and Keith Earls. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Ireland's CJ Stander and Keith Earls. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

By having lost to Wales on Saturday, the Azzurri have now racked up their 30th loss on the bounce in the Six Nations and their 19th in a row at home and to make matters worse, their performances are only getting more incompetent with every game that passes.

There are players on the Italian side that don’t even know the most basic of rules. 

Unless the Six Nations committee decides to do something about it, this competition that has been at the forefront of international rugby for as long as I can recall will continue to lose its audience.

England, on the other hand, produced their best performance of the season by courageously dealing with a very young and exciting French side that have now lost their opportunity to win a Grand Slam. 

It was a game that could have went either way however, England’s durability and must win attitude saw them dig very deep into their reserves and just managed to reach the finishing line with their noses in front.

This game between England and France was by far the most entertaining contest so for in this year’s tournament and from judging how England went about their business in halting this French resurgence, I think Ireland will be in for one hell of a bruising battle next Saturday.

In order to win any game of rugby, there are two fundamental traits that you must successfully produce on the day.

The first is that your defence must be assured and assertive in what they are doing and as part of this the tackles they make need to be firm and domineering. 

I think it would be a fair assumption to say that both sides failed in this facet of the game and were it not for some fortuitous bounces and the composure of Johnny Sexton, Ireland could have easily gone on to lose.

The second entity that winning sides must have is the ability to win their own first phase possession and as we saw in this game Scotland’s hopelessness to secure their own line-out ball became the catalyst for their loss.

James Ryan. Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile
James Ryan. Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile

To the best of my knowledge Scotland only managed to win two clean lineouts in the entire game and when this happens your key playmakers find themselves living on scraps of hollow and at most times worthless possession.

Credit must go to Ireland’s defensive line-out capabilities and to the homework they did in the lead-up to the game.

The introduction of Paul O’Connell to the Irish coaching ticket seems to have been a very clever ploy by Andy Farrell and he can thank his lucky stars that O’Connell’s shrewd rugby brain is doing the business.

Keith Earls was simply magnificent throughout the tie and his aerial assuredness allowed for Ireland’s box kicking strategy to return a worthy percentage.

The Limerick man who only last week signed a one-year extension on his Irish contract proved a lot of his doubters wrong and was a very close contender for the Player of the Match award.

However, James Lowe who occupied the other winger’s jersey had a shocker.

I don’t exactly know why, but Lowe seems to be a completely different player in a Leinster jersey and what he produces for Leo Cullen is a very distant cry for what he has produced for Farrell. 

I would be shocked if he is anywhere near the matchday 23 for next week’s game and I think his place will go to Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale who seems to have rekindled his confidence.

The decision to leave Conor Murray on the bench for the entirety of this game seems to have been a strange one and I just wonder if this is the beginning of the end?

As Scotland started to somehow claw their way back into this game in the second half, I was waiting for Murray to enter the arena however, this never materialised, and Jamison Gibson-Park was trusted with the task of steadying the ship and closing out the game.

This was a game that Farrell probably needed to win more than the players who represented him did and the victory will only be a temporary break before his son arrives in Dublin during the week.

This win was great however, it has raised far more questions than it has answered.

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