Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Easterby wants Ireland to be fast and furious

Simon Easterby was one of the few Ireland players to emerge from Sunday's horror show against Namibia with some degree of credit.

And being at the coalface of the contest to win the ball at the breakdown, the Llanelli captain is best placed to shed some light on why Ireland have continued to struggle to win quick ball, which is so crucial to their effectiveness as an attacking side.

Increasingly, the opposition have learned that if you give Ireland slow ball, Ireland can become predictable and easy to defend against, even with such a potent midfield spearhead of Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll.

It was the case against Scotland in the narrow victory at Murrayfield in the Six Nations and again in the defeat in the World Cup warm-up match last month. So too against Italy at Ravenhill and, most alarmingly against African minnows Namibia at the Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux last Sunday.

And according to Easterby, the big problem is dealing with defenders who are intent on slowing the ball down illegally by lying on the wrong side of the ruck, particularly in light of the rigorous discipline being imposed during this tournament.

At this stage, a four-match ban for stamping could effectively end a player's World Cup.

"I think so far in the games we have seen, the referees have maybe been a bit more lenient on the guys who come in and try to poach the ball," said Easterby. "That's slowing the ball down there is a fine line between clearing someone out and doing it legally and putting boots on bodies.

"Referees have obviously had a word and any foul play will obviously be picked up on so you try to work out how best to do it (clear out the ruck) without giving away a penalty or be carded.

"You could see in the Argentina v France game that it was very physical at the breakdown. The Pumas managed to slow a lot of the French ball down by getting on the wrong side and the French weren't able to do anything about it.

"Against us, the Namibians were similar. I thought in our warm-up games we hadn't been particularly good at the breakdown but I thought against Namibia we were better. But we still need to be better. Georgia are going to pose a similar threat to Namibia and if you can't create quick ball then we will struggle against any side."

One quick fix to improving the speed of the ball is to commit more players to the breakdown, something Ireland felt they didn't need to do against the Namibians.

"I think we maybe at times put the cart before the horse," he added. "There was a lot of expectation about the Namibian game about scoring X amount of points and wiping them off the park. You still have to do the basics and keep hold of the ball.

"I think tomorrow you will see us do a lot more of the basics - make sure that we win the ball first before we think about off-loading it or trying to put Georgia through phases and maybe not trying to bust them off every phase or every play.

"If you keep the ball for seven or eight phases against any team, you are going to do well and against sides like Georgia or Namibia you should create scoring opportunities."

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