Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Peter Bills: Dynamic show from forwards needed if Irish are to recover

Ireland's task in putting their World Cup challenge back on track against Georgia in Bordeaux tonight revolves around one commodity. Dynamism.

Find it, and the challenge is revived. Plod through another match shorn of such a quality and the belief may begin to drain from Eddie O'Sullivan's men.

There is no substitute for a dynamic, revved up performance. It banishes doubts, electrifies players and spectators alike and offers everyone a glimpse of the immense possibilities. Without it, Ireland look just another side in a tournament of many ordinary teams.

This Ireland side should look a whole lot better than that. Sure, they are over reliant on a handful of individuals and are prone to alarming lapses in concentration at crucial times in matches. But collectively, they ought to be able to produce a far more dynamic display than we saw from them against Namibia in Bordeaux last Sunday.

The mind is inevitably drawn to the backs, especially the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Shane Horgan and Ronan O'Gara to achieve this scenario. But that would be wrong.

It must be down to the forwards to raise their game and in particular, raise the speed at which they deliver ball. Even sides like Namibia are relatively comfortable against opponents only able to secure possession at a slow pace. Defences can re-organise, shaken senses can clear in a few seconds.

The secret behind so much of what New Zealand are doing in world rugby is the frightening pace at which they re-cycle possession. Firstly, they're trying not to let the ball go to ground, attempting to off-load just before or in the tackle. Watch them; their continuity and ball transference even under heavy physical contact, is awesome. Such continuity is the death knell for a defence for it has no time to re-align.

And when the All Blacks are forced to go to ground, there is an intensity about their ability to free the ball that no other side in the world is able to match. It is the key to their entire game.

Ireland are not going to be able to reach such heights of excellence at this World Cup. But somehow, they have to speed up the release of the loose ball so as to offer decent opportunities to those out wide. Sides like Namibia or Georgia simply could not cope if their opponents were re-cycling at pace. Italy showed that in being thrashed by New Zealand last weekend. Thus, greater ruthlessness by Ireland is essential in this aspect.

It is up to the Irish forwards to raise their game. It is not just the back row who must do all the work in this respect although inevitably their roles come into sharper focus than others. How well a side does in this phase of the play can directly be attributed to the form of its open side flanker. Is it any wonder New Zealand are so good in this respect when they have Richie McCaw in the role ?

There is another way Ireland could sharpen up their game. Leaving Geordan Murphy, one of world rugby's sharpest, most innovative full-backs sitting warming the replacements bench defies all logic for a side that must score points and attack.

Murphy offers a serious threat, a real promise from the back especially in broken play on the counter attack. Girvan Dempsey is a fine player but represents the safe option. If Ireland don't make it out of this group, it will be too late then to lament the absence of Murphy's game-breaking abilities.

Like a fully wound up clock, the pressure is growing ever greater for Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph