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Ireland got Six Nations job done, without skill


Mind the gap: Peter O’Mahony vies with Italian duo Joshua Furno and Francesco Minto

Mind the gap: Peter O’Mahony vies with Italian duo Joshua Furno and Francesco Minto

AFP/Getty Images

Mind the gap: Peter O’Mahony vies with Italian duo Joshua Furno and Francesco Minto

How the Irish management and players came up with the usual cliches after the game.

"We knew Italy would be tough and we would have to break them down," went the refrain. Sadly, the reality was far from that. Italy would field a full complement of players and were awful in every area, defence apart. That said, Ireland did not ask too many questions in attack and were incredibly one-dimensional.

Italy could never win a match in which they had a third of the possession and territory, lost one in three of their own lineouts and the Azzurri scrum never threatened what is an average Irish set-piece.

The result was the Italians made more than 200 tackles with few errors, but that was the only aspect of their game that merited a pass mark.

Ireland took an hour to score a try, when Conor Murray scored from a yard. After years of defensive coaches, the first defender off the ruck at the line again failed to stop a lighter man. It beggars belief that such a simple task seems beyond professional players. Italy were broken and Tommy O'Donnell scored an easy try courtesy of three missed tackles.

For 80 minutes, the Irish backline huffed and puffed without making one clean line break. The centre partnership was pedestrian and Robbie Henshaw clearly not suited to inside-centre. Meanwhile, Jared Payne confirmed the Ulster suspicion that he is a full-back, pure and simple.

Ian Keatley, who was playing above his pay grade, did not let the side down. However, if Ireland are to beat France then Johnny Sexton must play.

The first weekend of the championship confirmed that the race to body size continues unabated. England, according to Conor O'Shea, bullied Wales into submission and skill and flair were notably absent in almost six hours of rugby.

The concussion debate ratcheted up quite a few notches after George North of Wales received three heavy knocks.

Interestingly, World Rugby, the governing body, asked the WRU to investigate the incident. The Welsh put out the usual all-embracing press release, with honeyed words about medical protocols passed by the player.

This time, there was one huge difference. World Rugby did not act off its own bat, but in response to the massive outrage on social media. The fans, for the first time, became vocal in their reaction to what they saw as the cover-up of a serious injury.

Rugby Union as we know it is on its last legs. Within two years, it will be three games. Children, amateurs and professionals will all play variations of the same game.

I found it hard to care about the results last weekend.

All I wanted was brave young men to survive.

Belfast Telegraph