David Corkery: Fresh faces brought needed energy to Irish rugby team

Ireland cruised to a 10-try victory over the USA at the Aviva on Saturday
David Corkery: Fresh faces brought needed energy to Irish rugby team

Ireland's Gavin Coombes scores a try against the USA. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

TEN tries, eight new caps and, more importantly, an overall performance that Andy Farrell will be very pleased with.

Setting to one side the quality of the opposition, Ireland played this game exactly as they had planned to and when you can do that against any international team, you can always refer to it as a good day in the office.

No prizes for guessing how the Yanks would start but, despite their gung-ho approach and customary beating of the chest, they lacked any kind of composure and control, especially when they had the ball.

For the opening quarter of the game the visitors had completely dominated the possession stats and on four separate occasions they found themselves in very advantageous positions deep within the Irish 22.

Like a poorly equipped bank robber trying to penetrate a concrete vault with a rubber mallet, they expended a mammoth amount of effort in looking to cross the gain line and instead of going around the Irish defence, they tried tirelessly to go through it. No matter what they did or how hard they knocked the green jersey always came out on top.

USA scrum-half Ruben De was completely out of his depth and showed no level of calmness when his pack of forwards came within sniffing distance of the Irish try line.

Instead of slowing everything down and assuming control of the situation, De just shifted the ball from A to B without looking to see if options C and D were more favourable. When this happens well organised defensive structures tend to have a very easy day, and this is exactly what transpired.

Size and bulk in the modern game is becoming more and more prevalent. However, on this occasion, the Irish players proved that technique and speed off the line was easily able to repel anything that the Eagles were able to throw at them and after two or three phases of attack, the ball was either turned over or carelessly knocked on.

Ireland's back-row worked especially hard, and I was particularly impressed with what Caelan Doris brought to the party.

After a worrying and sustained period confined to the sidelines because of concussion-related issues, it was great to see Doris back in the thick of things and hopefully the Leinster flanker will soon regain the kind of form that was pointing him in the direction of a British and Irish Lions call up.

Ulster’s Nick Tomoney was also lively, especially at ruck time and Gavin Coombes was his usual self in both attack and defence albeit, I am not so sure if number eight is his best contributing position. I would like to see him develop as a number six as this would give him a little bit more freedom to roam the field and pop up as a supporting ball carrier.


Joey Carbery took another big step on his road to full recovery and despite running up a few dead-end channels, he showed glimpses of magic with some sublime passing. Perhaps against a more organised defensive line, the Munster fly-half would have opted to kick the ball and look to turn the defence a bit more. On this occasion that was not necessary, and Irelands mid-field were given opportunity after opportunity to run at their opposing numbers.

As a contest, the game was as good as done when Man of the Match Ronan Kelleher crossed for his second of four tries just after the 20-minute mark and at that stage, it was just a case of guesstimating what the final scoreline would be.

In the end, Ireland managed to cross the try line on 10 occasions and the Eagles were reduced to 14 men when Mathieu Raynal was shown a red card for a dubious head high tackle on Ronan Kelleher crossed for just one.

Of the new eight caps on display, the pace and evasion capabilities of Robert Baloucoune stood out the most and as an attacking back trio of Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway and Baloucoune, it was the most exciting back three in a green jersey I have seen in many a year. 

The big question is of course, how would Baloucoune do against a team like France or Wales where he would be facing the highest of quality opponents. Hopefully, we will get the opportunity to find out because the man has speed to burn.

Keenan who won his 13th consecutive cap in the number fifteen jersey is looking more and more comfortable on the international stage and should consider himself very unlucky not to be touring South Africa with the Lions. I think if he had another year under his belt in the international spotlight, he would have been a cert to travel.

It is very hard to find the true and worthwhile values in games of this nature however, I must praise Farrell for introducing so many new faces to the test arena because it is the only true way of finding out if a player can deal with the pressure of playing international rugby.

With Irelands next scheduled game to take place on the fifth of February 2022 against Wales, it will be fascinating to see what team takes to the field and how many of Saturday’s panel will be present?

Well done to all the new caps on your very special day.

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