David Corkery on rugby: Jack Crowley has a great future after handling the pressure at the Aviva

Innishannon native stepped up after Johnny Sexton was injured in the warm-up before Ireland beat Australia
David Corkery on rugby: Jack Crowley has a great future after handling the pressure at the Aviva

Ireland's Jack Crowley made a solid first start. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

FOR all of World Rugby’s talk about a zero-tolerance approach towards concussion and head-related injuries, I was flabbergasted to see Australian scrum-half Nic White return to the Aviva on Saturday after receiving two blows to the head.

This whole area is one of the biggest threats to the game of rugby union and I couldn't believe the medics and referee allowed him to return to the action. 

Of late, people have been asking me if they should be sending their kids to play rugby. My answer is yes simply because of how the laws have changed and the many protocols that now exist around dealing with injuries. On the basis of this incident, I think I'll tell them buy their kids a set of golf clubs or a tennis racket for Christmas from here on.

As a spectacle this third and final game of Ireland's Autumn Nations Series did not feature a very impressive performance from the home side. 

However, to have played way below their normally high standards and still win is a sign of a very good team.

Deprived of possession and territory for vast portions of the game, Ireland still managed to make the most of their scoring opportunities and some of their defensive efforts were simply brilliant.

At one stage in the first half, Australia battered Andy Farrell’s players for 23 phases and made very little inroads toward the Irish try line. In the end, it was Man of the Match Caelan Doris who managed to get his claws on the ball and win a turnover penalty.

I guess you could say that the visitors lacked invention when they had possession of the ball but, when you are faced with a very well-organised and aggressive tackle line, your options are very limited as to what you can actually do with the ball.

Bernard Foley who was pulling the strings behind the Wallaby’s pack didn’t get the opportunity to play his normal attacking game.

Normally Foley stands very flat to the gain line and found himself retreating deeper and deeper as the game went on.

Despite having some very dynamic and powerful runners standing outside him if you are forced to adopt a negative position as a fly-half, your options to play a wide and expansive game are few and far between.

Wearing the other number 10 jersey on the field was Bandon Rugby Club’s Jack Crowley and for him to have received the nod 13 minutes before the kick-off, and play as well as he did, is yet another endorsement of this young man’s future.

Deprived of any regular supply of ball and territory throughout the game, Crowley did all that was asked of him as a playmaker. 

However, the most positive aspect of his performance was his mental capacity to deal with being handed Johnny Sexton's jersey minutes before the kick-off in a game of this nature.

At no stage in the game did the 22-year-old look overwhelmed by the responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders and it was great to see him talking and directing his forwards around the field.

As a forward, you are so dependent on the guidance afforded to you by your half-backs and it is crystal clear to see that Crowley has all the respect in the world from the pack he manages.

This was a game that could have gone either way and whilst a draw might have been a fairer result, a very tired-looking Ireland just about deserved the win.

Hugo Keenan of Ireland offloads as he is tackled by Mark Nawaqanitawase of Australia. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Hugo Keenan of Ireland offloads as he is tackled by Mark Nawaqanitawase of Australia. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

You might say that their shrewdness and ability to sway some very questionable officiating decisions in their favour gave them the edge but, that’s what good sides do when things aren’t exactly going their way.

This game won’t be remembered for skill or excitement but, what it has done is highlight that World Rugby still have a very long way to go before mommy and daddy are confident that their kids are playing sport in a safe environment.

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