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And so we reach the end of the most important summer series in recent memory. Ireland ventured down under hoping to show squad strength and take a scalp of a southern hemisphere super power.
Ireland came into test three battered, bruised and knowing that Australia would be at their explosive vest. The worry coming in to test three was that Ireland emptied the tank in a fantastic test 2 performances and would have one eye on the holidays and only one eye on the Wallabies. Could Ireland finish off the best season in history with a first win in 30+ years in Australia and in doing so add another notch to the belt of beating rugby super powers.
Ireland where amazingly at the races for an hour. They looked strong, capable and where in charge for the first 55 to 60 minutes. The main reference points being Australia targeting the kick off with O’Mahony hitting the ground 3 times in the game. 1 of which was a good challenge the other 2 where dangerous. Falou getting a card and shaking his head after knowing he grabbed O’Mahony with his left hand after the great challenge in the air shows the quality (or lack thereof) in the fella.
|Game 1 (AUS – IRL)||Game 2 (AUS- IRL)||Game 3 (AUS – IRL)|
|Possession||40% – 60%||40% – 60%||53% – 47%|
|Territory||39% – 61%||37% – 63%||53% – 47%|
It was another massively intense game; it was another brave performance from a tired Ireland and a game so tiring that I think we all need a break before the next season starts.
So the breakdown is, what did Ireland get out of the series? The answer is obviously a win, another scalp and a mental bullet in a southern hemisphere team. It also emboldens the team to move forward, now concrete in their second best in the world seeding with the number 1 team visiting in November. They also came back from losing; coming in there was talk about world records to be made and beating all and sundry. Ireland took a loss in their first game, without mental strength, belief and a want to win this would have derailed the Joe show. Instead, the team had a tough week of self-examination in camp and came back in test 2 with one of the best performances of the year. Errors were identified and fixed which is a fantastic thing for a team so show they can do. As you can see from the stat table, turnovers where massive for Australia (and the Pocock) in game 1. Ireland conceded 21. That was not an issue for the remaining 2 games. In fact, the number of turnovers conceded dropped in each.
Anytime a team ca identify an issue, address it and fix it is huge.
Another big question coming into the series was if Ireland should blood new players or go for the win. Would Joe do one or the other? In reality the man did both. He had his cake and ate it too (no idea where that odd phrase came from). Ireland had every one of the squad (Ross Byrne aside) on the pitch. A great return. In the third test Ireland had enforced changes through injury and all performed like they were starters.
Below I have a list of players in each position. Not saying starters or backups, just options.
Best, Cronin, Herring, Scannell
Toner, Ryan, Henderson, Beirne
Stander, POM, Conan, Murphy, SOB, JVDF (and a hunred others)
Murray, McGrath, Cooney, Marmion
Sexton, Byrne, Carberry
Earls, Stockdale, Larmour, Conway
And so there you go, not a bad return on a plan that began the minute the Argentina game in the last RWC finished. All of the above players could play in pressure games. The 9 and 10 options will have big European games for their provinces next season which will help along with Carberry getting game time in Munster.
The issue I see is at 15. Kearney is a monster. Had a great game 2, but looked a bit tired in G3. The man has been playing more this season thanks to a relatively good injury free period of time, but who is the back up? I know Conway or Larmour could cover, but they are lethal wingers and not the same under a high ball as Kearney. Players need to be playing in their positions for the next 18 months, Ireland cannot have a Luke Fitzgerald scenario where he played wing, centre and fullback and didn’t have HIS position in place. No need for utility players anymore.
That is the big issue coming out of the series.
I am knackered after the Irish trip down under, I have no idea how the players feel.