David Corkery: Inspired Irish need to play with this swagger from now on

Dominance of English at Aviva Stadium showed what Andy Farrell's charges are capable of
David Corkery: Inspired Irish need to play with this swagger from now on

Ireland's Keith Earls runs through to score their first try of the match during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium.

AT LAST, a performance in the Andy Farrell era that was complete and, more importantly, proactive.

Unfortunately, it took until the last game in this year’s competition for this excellence to arrive but it just goes to show that when you get your game-plan right and the players singing off the same hymn sheet, Irish rugby can compete with the best.

Maybe the boys in green were inspired by the performances of the Irish riders and Irish trainers in Cheltenham? Whatever it was, it is now imperative that they look back at how they prepared both mentally and physically for this game and build on it.

Some might argue that Ireland got all the 50-50 calls, but at this level trust me when I tell you there are very few bounces of the ball or refereeing decisions that help you produce such performance to humiliate and crush the opposition.

This was a game where Ireland won all the battles and there can be no arguments.

Up front, the eight that started and the subs that came on prevailed in all their individual confrontations. They completely eclipsed an English forward pack picked to bully their way around the pitch.

John Fogarty, who looks after the Irish scrum, will be smiling for the next few weeks because of how his pack performed.

Whether by fault or design the Irish front row completely outfoxed their fellow opponents. There may have been some slight bending of the rules in how they were awarded so many penalties at the scrum, but Fogarty has enhanced his reputation handsomely as a result of this display.

Clearly, the improvement in the Irish lineout has come as a direct result of bringing Paul O’Connell into the Irish coaching ticket. It just goes to show the importance of having specialists involved in each of the many facets that the game now commands.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and forwards coach Paul O’Connell. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and forwards coach Paul O’Connell. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

From the lineout call that produced the opportunity for Keith Earls to dance his way over the English try line to the many variations that had Ireland’s antagonists completely bewildered as to where the ball was going to end up, it was so pleasing to see the Irish forwards using so many different options.

There were times when England’s defensive jumpers didn’t know if they were coming or going and by the time they had it worked out the ball had safely arrived in the hands of Stander, Henderson, Beirne, van der Flier or Ireland's other try-scorer Jack Conan. I think it is also very important to recognise the contribution provided by the lifters and ball throwers in this vital aspect of the game. 

Only for these workhorses who often go unrewarded for their endless displays of power and agility, you would easily be forgiven for thinking that the likes of Henderson and Beirne were shod with boots made of lead.

DOUBLE ACT

The decision by Farrell to rekindle the partnership of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton for this game was viewed by many as daring and you can be assured that if this vital axis failed to produce tangible outcomes for their teammates to benefit from, the headlines would have been very negative towards their selection.

Both players have rightly so been chastised for the amount of ball they have needlessly kicked away in previous games but on this occasion, they got the blend between passing and kicking just right.

Thankfully in this game, every time this now legendary duo put boot to ball it hit the bull’s eye and not only did their accuracy allow for Earls, Stockdale and the Irish backrow to contest with much success, it also curtailed the very dangerous English back three from running it back.

The ever-evolving presence of Hugo Keenan in the number 15 spot took another step in the correct direction during this tie and don’t be surprised if he finds himself in a Lions jersey during the summer if the series gets the green light. Some of the Leinster man's fielding skills were astonishing and he will surely have commanded a line or two in Warren Gatland’s notebook.

END TIMES?

For England, I think this embarrassing loss might signal the end of Eddie Jones' reign as their gaffer. I’m sure the blazers in Twickenham will be having their Six Nations review very soon where the knives of doom will be close at hand. England losing three games in this tournament and finishing fifth will be viewed as a sin against an establishment that likes to view itself as perfection.

For Ireland this victory has proven once again they can play an expansive game and the next generation is good enough to implement it.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki celebrate after the game. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland's Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki celebrate after the game. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

So, my plea to the Irish coaching staff is that they continue to implement a riskier approach to scoring points by keeping the ball and not directing their players to aimlessly kick it away.

I also hope the players and coaches enjoyed a good few pints after the game because there won’t be that many occasions in their careers where they get to embarrass a nation with England’s pedigree.

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