David Corkery on rugby: Ireland look a real force for the Six Nations

Consistency is the key for any side that wants to change its status from good to great and Ireland improved in every game across the Autumn Series
David Corkery on rugby: Ireland look a real force for the Six Nations

Ireland's Josh van der Flier is tackled by Argentina's Pablo Matera during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. 

A GAME that didn’t quite have the same fascination or razzmatazz as last week’s New Zealand tie, however, when you play against Argentina you get is a form of physicality that no other side brings to the party. 

If you can’t match it or find a way to control your reactions, Argentina will drag you down to a street fight where they are the unequivocal masters. In one respect it’s the Pumas' fiery Latin temperament that allows them to ply their trade in the Rugby Championship albeit, if they have any aspirations of improving and climbing the world ranking table, they must reinvent how they go about their business and take a very close look at their discipline.

If we were playing rugby in the 1990s where the game sometimes resembled a 15-a-side cage fight, I think this Argentinian squad would be in the world’s top three, but the game has very much changed and a side without discipline and an ability to self-regulate will very quickly find themselves falling foul to the lawmakers.

Considering that the Argentinians have been on the road for nearly six months now, I think the winner of this game was really never in doubt and were it not for them butchering 13 points in the first half the scoreline may not have been so generous come the final whistle.

We must also factor in that they were at the receiving end of a yellow and red card which didn’t exactly help their plight however, no one can take anything from Ireland’s efforts as they stuck to their game plan and continued their wave of incessant dominance in all areas of the field.

Consistency is the key for any side who want to change their status from good to great and what Ireland have shown over this trio of autumn internationals is that there is an unswerving endeavour for improvement after each game.

I know that players and coaches will always say that they must continuously strive to lessen their mistakes and improve on their performance, but rarely do you see it manifest and very rarely do you see it engulf an entire squad of players.

Andy Farrell and his players have now won eight games on the bounce and from the outside looking in, he seems to have built a very happy camp where everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet.

Each and every player portrays an impression that he knows exactly what he is doing and where he should be.

I still believe there is room for a reflex type player like Simon Zebo who has the natural ability to turn nothing into something with a swivel of his hips, but for now Farrell will not want to alter the style he is asking his players to play, and who could blame him?

It was great to see Joey Carbery finding his feet after a very arduous and turbulent few years, but he still has a road to travel before you could call him the next long-term Irish out-half.

Before that happens, we will need to see him ascertain the respect of those who he plays with and more importantly, against.

I thought Tadgh Furlong was simply magnificent in these games and his worth to Irish rugby is simply priceless.

The power that he brings to the scrum is only complemented by the hard yards he makes with the ball in his hands and unquestionably he is the cornerstone to Farrell’s overall vision.

The experiment of transforming Andrew Porter into a loosehead has worked a treat and with Ronan Kelleher very quickly becoming a world-class hooker and Cian Healy waiting in the wings, Ireland easily has one of the best front rows in the world.

IMPRESSIVE

At this point, I could write an entire column about what each and every player is contributing to this Irish squad, but I do not have enough space. However, one player that has shone the brightest for me is Jamison Gibson-Park.

Ireland's Jamison Gibson-Park.
Ireland's Jamison Gibson-Park.

Amazingly, Park is not a shoo-in for Leinster, but what he brings to Ireland when he plays is urgency and rapidness, the likes of which I have never seen before.

If you want your players to maintain a high tempo, they need to be fed a constant supply of ball and that is exactly what Gibson-Park shovels down his fellow players’ throats.

The windows of opportunity are so fine in international rugby that a quarter of a second can make all the difference and when you have a scrum-half whose passing is as instantaneous as Gibson-Park’s is, it gives defences no time to get organised and keeps your forwards hitting the gain line with the throttle fully open.

I know that we are two years away from a World Cup, but if Farrell and co can keep up this kind of progression, we will not be that far off from where we need to be when France 2023 comes calling.

I also know that we are masters of messing up when it matters most, and two years is a very long time in sporting terms so all we can do now is hope and pray.

Obviously, the win against the All Blacks will live longest in our memories though their loss to France on Saturday evening has taken a bit of the gloss away from Ireland’s efforts.

For the All Blacks to lose to two northern hemisphere sides in consecutive weeks paints a true picture of just how tired they are, and you can be sure that the lessons they have learned will be very valuable assets when the World Cup comes about.

For now, all we can do is look forward to the Six Nations with a heightened set of expectations.

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