Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Rugby World Cup: Ireland win inspired by clever thinking

Afterwards as the players were sought out by a ravenous media eager to try and locate the source of just how Ireland had done it, one name seemed to leap out from the plethora of sound-bites and he hadn’t even taken part: Jerry Flannery.

The luckless Ireland hooker departed for home in the aftermath of Saturday’s helpfully rain-lashed game in Auckland, still nursing the calf injury that ended his World Cup but, prior to proceedings, he had handed out the shirts to the starting team in a highly-charged and emotion-laden ceremony.

In a squad already feeling the heat from such a bad run of performances, the effect only hardened the deep desire to deliver.

They knew it was backs- to-the-wall time, they knew they owed it to themselves and the supporters to front up and, of course, they knew they just had to do it for Flannery.

It was a clever move from Declan Kidney to allow the popular Flannery his moment, but it was only part of what Ireland brought to Eden Park.

Indeed, there was so much intelligence to the Irish effort; this was a carefully prepared and thought out game-plan which clicked to awesome effect.

True, Ireland were greatly assisted by the withdrawal of ball-stealer par excellence David Pocock and hooker Stephen Moore, but this was all about fronting up to the Tri-Nations champions in the trenches and ruthlessly exposing them.

And how they did. They got in the faces of game-breakers Will Genia and Quade Cooper from the outset. Stephen Ferris’ ‘pick, carry and dump’ of Genia set the tone and the awesome Sean O’Brien’s magnificent tackle on Genia ended a wretched evening for him and his team.

In the scrum Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross devoured their opponents and strangled the life out of them at source while the Australians were also picked off in Ireland’s ‘choke-tackles’ patented by their Aussie defensive coach Les Kiss.

This has shaken the World Cup into life and opened up the tantalising possibility of Ireland actually making the last four.

But wait; as Paul O’Connell said it was only one game and Ireland aren’t through yet.

Italy need to be seen off, the props have to stay fit while there is still an issue at out-half.

True, but who’d have thought all this possible a week ago?

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