Ireland’s line-out can become a real weapon
Although John Plumtree’s forwards lost two of their own 15 throws, they made up for those minor errors by stealing three of Scotland’s. The sight of Peter O’Mahony being used as a defensive weapon at the line-out was hugely welcome; with his natural leap, the Munster captain can develop into a French-style back row jumper.
Devin Toner did his fair share of excellent work too, winning five line-outs on Ireland’s throw and playing a prominent part in the mauling success that continues to develop. Standing in for Paul O’Connell, Dan Tuohy contributed well, and even ended the game calling Ireland’s line-out, with Toner off the pitch.
Scotland were frustrated by losing five line-outs during their own efforts out of touch, stifling their ability to get on the front foot and launch their most dangerous backs. Ireland should look to repeat their disruption against Wales and deny Warren Gatland’s side the chance to get the likes of George North onto the ball.
More security is needed at attacking rucks
Scotland deserve credit for the aggressive manner in which they counter-rucked, particularly in the first half. Still, if Joe Schmidt is to review this game as a means to improving his own team, then he will be critical of Ireland’s accuracy in providing security at their attacking rucks.
Defensively, there were few breakdown issues as O’Mahony led the charge in terms of turnover contest, but a key focus this week will be identifying how, when and why Scotland were able to disrupt Ireland’s possession at the ruck area.
Scotland managed to get plenty of spoiling done at the breakdown. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.
On immediate reflection, the impression is that Ireland need to remain focused on each individual ruck before concerning themselves with where to run next or what mini-play to call. Securing the breakdown is the first priority in attack and Conor Murray will expect cleaner possession next weekend.
Schmidt has a handful of difficult selection decisions ahead
Luke Marshall had a strong game for Ireland, getting through 10 tackles and carrying powerfully when asked to do so. A gorgeous pass off his right hand almost led to Dave Kearney getting free up the left in the second half too. The 22-year-old looked composed and mature up against Saracens’ Duncan Taylor.
With Gordon D’Arcy now back in the mix, Ireland’s head coach has a demanding call to make; keep faith in the promising youngster who stood up well in a winning performance, or revert to the experience and mental strength of the 75-cap veteran?
With Luke Fitzgerald expected to return to the fray out wide, who does Schmidt omit? The try-scoring Andrew Trimble or the busy Dave Kearney? Marty Moore performed solidly off the bench; is he ready to start against Wales? Dan Tuohy will miss out with O’Connell back in the team, but that is an easy decision.
Ireland’s bench will play a part in any championship success
Sean Cronin played 15 minutes off the bench against Scotland. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.
John Plumtree highlighted the strength of his bench options in the forwards during the build-up to this game, and he was not let down by Ireland’s players. Tommy O’Donnell, Moore, Jack McGrath, Iain Henderson and Sean Cronin all contributed to the victory in varying degrees.
The clash with Wales is likely to be as energy-sapping an affair as ever, meaning the same men [or others if the selection changes] will play important roles. Schmidt has been insistent that international rugby is about 23 players rather than 15, and his theory will be proven in the coming six weeks.
Ireland do look well set to benefit from the added impetus and energy of their replacements, not only in the forwards. Paddy Jackson was lively and confident in his brief cameo this afternoon, while Fergus McFadden rarely disappoints.
Individuals in good form
Schmidt’s coaching philosophy is all about the collective, but rugby remains a game in which the team with the best players will most often triumph. That is not to say that Ireland should allow individuals free reign to roam wherever they please and contribute only what they feel is necessary.
However, it is a huge bonus if certain players can stand out in the manner that the likes of Rob Kearney and Peter O’Mahony did today. The blindside flanker was everywhere, stealing ball on the deck, robbing Scottish line-outs and chipping in with several intelligent linking passes.
At fullback, Kearney was assured and he made an impact with ball in hand too, running 79 metres with ball in hand, according to the earliest batch of official match stats. Schmidt will hope that the same men, and others, can grab the next four games by the scruff of the neck in a similar manner.
What lessons will Ireland have learned from this win over Scotland? All thoughts and opinions are greatly welcome.