David Corkery on where Ireland must improve before facing France

Wales win in the Six Nations opener thrilled the fans but the real test is next weekend
David Corkery on where Ireland must improve before facing France

The Irish crowd celebrating the fourth try. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

IN terms of accuracy, Ireland were a good way off the level they reached in the Autumn Internationals against Wales. 

However, their intent on playing an all-encompassing brand of rugby was the same and that’s what truly mattered at the Aviva.

Looking in from the outside and from listening to the players in their interviews, it seems Andy Farrell has instilled a mindset that if they rest on their past achievements and victories they will soon become stagnant and very predictable. That's what happened to Ireland when Joe Schmidt was at the end of his tenure.

Not many had given the Welsh a prayer of winning this and their judgement, based on the visitors losing so many experienced players, was well-founded. As the matchday clock elapsed, Ireland only got stronger and the normal unwavering challenge that fuels Welsh rugby was nowhere to be seen.

Dan Biggar has contributed much on and off the field but as a captain, he completely failed in his duty to stir any kind of pride in his players. As their challenge faded, Ireland’s confidence just grew and grew. It will be very interesting to see if Biggar retains the captain's armband for the rest of the tournament.

Within three minutes, Ireland had their first of five tries in the bag courtesy of the powerful Bundee Aki dotting down in the corner.

Aki, who seems to have completely bought into the Irish jersey and the cultures of Connacht’s wild west, might be limited in his creative competency, but what he does well he does very well. 

As a ball-carrying wrecking machine, he is highly effective.

The authoritative New Zealander’s midfield accomplice Garry Ringrose also had a fine game and the equilibrium that all great partnerships must have, gives Farrell extensive scope to help his players create exploitable gaps in the watertight defences that we see today.

Ringrose was rewarded with a try in the 60th minute and should be very happy with his work. 

Ireland's Tadhg Beirne is tackled by Liam Williams of Wales. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Ireland's Tadhg Beirne is tackled by Liam Williams of Wales. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

I would probably have bestowed him or Tadhg Beirne with the Man of the Match accolade. However, in the greater scheme of things, I don’t think Ringrose or Beirne will be that disappointed with it going to debutant Mack Hansen.

What has made this Irish side so effective is their ruthless efficiency when they are in possession of the ball and how each player knows exactly what their role is. In rugby, you are only as strong as your weakest link and one lapse of concentration or misunderstanding of what your job is can often be the difference between success and failure.

The systems that Farrell and his ticket of coaches have implemented is general in its design and whether the number on your back ranges from one to eight or nine to 15, your skillset must ensure that you can pass with accuracy, run lines of support that keep the opposition honest and, if you are required to get down and dirty in securing the ball at the breakdown, you do so without even thinking about it.

Ireland's Joey Carbery takes on Ross Moriarty of Wales at the Aviva. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Ireland's Joey Carbery takes on Ross Moriarty of Wales at the Aviva. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

TRIED AND TRUSTED

The marvellous Johnny Sexton might well be entering the twilight of his career but he has once again risen to all the challenges that international rugby brings with it and silenced all those that are questioning his selection.

Apart from missing a few kicks at the posts, Sexton did everything that any top class fly-half 10 years his junior could do. And as long as he keeps doing this, the likes of Joey Carbery, Jack Carty or the Byrne brothers will be waiting in the wings to gain ownership of his coveted jersey.

Yes, I am all for building a complete squad for next year's World Cup, but as long as Sexton’s understudy is getting suitable game-time with his province, I have no issues with the Leinster man playing with and leading Ireland for the next two years.

The other part of Ireland’s game that has allowed them to become one of the world's most respected sides is the power of their ball-carrying runners and in particular their front row.

When you can afford to keep Cian Healy on the bench and still dominate your opponents in all facets of play, you can feel assured that your stock of props is in a very good place.

I can only imagine what the Welsh front row must have thought when they looked across at the hulking heads of Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong as they entered the first scrum and while the Irish trio didn’t completely destroy their opponents, they did enough to allow Jamison Gibson-Park an armchair ride.

On the back of this very comprehensive victory, Ireland will now travel to France where the challenge they will encounter over there will bear no resemblance to what unfolded on Saturday. 

They will know that their opportunities to score will be curtailed by a French squad that are hell-bent on winning a World Cup.

It will be very interesting to see if Farrell will look to make any changes for this game. 

This French team is very good and when they are playing at home their confidence is amplified to the point where they are almost unbeatable.

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