Squad depth and slow starts: Five things we learned from Ireland's Six Nations defeat to England
Ireland's Six Nations campaign got off to a poor start on Saturday when England out-battled their hosts to leave Dublin with a 32-20 success.
So what exactly can we take away from a disappointing afternoon at the Aviva?
1. England’s big men dominate at the Aviva
When completing his various media duties after the game, a continuing theme for Joe Schmidt was England’s superiority in the physicality stakes. The stats sheet certainly backed up his claim with the visitors making 48 dominant tackles to only 8 by Ireland. In a game where Ireland shaded the likes of territory, possession and metres made, this was the telling number.
2. Questions rise over Ireland’s full-back depth
Schmidt has naturally an abundance of credit in the bank given all he has achieved with Ireland and as such, while the selection of Robbie Henshaw in his former position of full-back was seen as a bold call, it wasn’t treated as a worrying one. But England exploited the increased uncertainty in the back-three with Owen Farrell, Henry Slade and Elliot Daly all kicking well.
3. Lengthy injury list a bitter pill to swallow
Defeat was always going to be tough to stomach, never mind its emphatic nature butut the toll on the squad looks to have been a heavy one too. CJ Stander played an hour with a suspected trio of facial fractures while Keith Earls left at half-time with a hip problem. With Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne already out, Devin Toner's ankle is a big worry.
4. Eddie’s England showed their class
The post-mortem will be thorough among Irish supporters but this was a mightily impressive performance from England. John Mitchell’s defensive gameplan unsettled Ireland’s key players in a way nobody has managed in arguably over two years while, with Manu Tuilagi and the Vunipola brothers to the fore they were impossible to contain on the gainline too.
5. Ireland slow out of the blocks again
For all the success of the last five and a half years slow starts have become something of a hallmark for Ireland. Under Schmidt, Ireland have won three, drawn one and lost two championship openers. Even their victories have been slow out of the blocks, taking a while to break down Scotland in 2014 then Italy away a year later while it took a miracle drop goal to beat France 12 months ago.
Belfast Telegraph Digital