Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Tyrone Howe: Ireland need pride after big fall

Declan Kidney

Let’s be honest, Ireland may have been minutes away from recording a home victory, but for the majority of the game they were out-thought, outgunned and outplayed by Warren Gatland and his men.

It was a combined effort between the size, speed and nous of the Welsh backline, fortified by a combative performance from their forwards.

Ireland had a shocking first half bar Rory Best’s try but somehow managed to ride their luck — it feels as if it has been this way for a long time now. But Wales should have had a try.

It may not have been conclusive but looking at the body angles and heights, no Irish player managed to get his body underneath the ball, thus logic and common sense would suggest that a try must have been scored.

With the advent of technology and the absence of close vision, where was the feel for the game? This lack of rugby nous was then displayed in the two spear-tackle decisions, where Dave Pearson got it wrong and wrong again.

But it would be too easy to blame the referee as that would paper over the major cracks that are appearing in Ireland’s play.

Defensively for Wales’ tries, Ireland were all over the place.

This was most apparent in Jonathan Davies’ second try. The actual Welsh move was straightforward — it was a simple miss pass to George North behind Jamie Roberts.

They were the only three Welsh players in the picture. Against them was an Irish defensive line with six players, led up on the inside by Tommy Bowe with Sean O’Brien outside him and then Jonny Sexton. Rory Best made up another defender as he broke off the back of the lineout.

That makes seven!

There is absolutely no way that North should have got through. Fergus McFadden will get hammered for the missed tackle, but the midfield was all over the place and Gordon D’Arcy should have stepped up and in and made the tackle.

It baffles me why players are so obsessed with trying to tackle players high. The only place you could target Jonah Lomu was around the ankles. I saw Simon Geoghegan do it once and hang on to his ankles par excellence.

If you go high, you run a serious risk of getting bounced – go low, get them to ground, and let your teammates worry about the potential offload. It was a dreadful try to give away.

Serious questions have to be asked about tactics, selection and Ireland’s inability to react to events on the pitch. The one area where Wales really struggled was in the lineout, but they recognised this and cut to shorter lineouts.

Ireland kicked away so much possession in the first half, they had to get their hands on the ball after half time, build phases, gain territory and put Wales under sustained pressure.

Instead, an approach that wasn’t working continued and after 11 minutes Wales had 61 per cent possession.

In itself, it is an overly conservative approach and does not play to Ireland’s strengths. However, if you are going to play this sort of game, then select Ronan O’Gara.

Do not select Sexton on his Leinster form and then ask him to play a completely different game.

Declan Kidney’s biggest challenge is to take the best of the provinces and combine them into an effective team. Not only is he not achieving this, but the intensity displayed by the individual provinces is not matched by the national team.

If you do continue with the kicking approach and you are disrupting the opposition lineout, why continue to keep the ball in-field rather than creating the one area — the lineout — where you are having most success?

In short, I have no gripes — Wales deserved their win.

With the exception of England last year and Australia in the RWC, it was the type of Irish performance which has now become the norm.

Kidney and his players have to bounce back and Paris is an incredibly difficult place to do this.

Little can be changed on the pitch this week. As much as anything else, Saturday will depend on the pride of the players, and at the moment this may be the best chance of dragging out a winning performance.

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