So here we go. Ireland are over the half way mark in this year’s 6 Nations and I don’t think there has been an emotional rollercoaster like it since that year that we don’t need to mention.
Wales on the other hand played rope a dope with England and are a great bet for the double in 2019.
Let’s start in Rome.
Ireland arrived with pressure still on the shoulders; the win against Scotland didn’t erase the stink of the lacklustre opening performance. A few injuries along with the aforementioned pressure led to a game that had more mistakes that shouldn’t be made and an appearance of lack of leadership that has sent the online Irish rugby community into a slobbering excitement of doom and gloom.
Starting with the stats: Ireland ran for 501 metres, the same as Italy, had 58% possession for 56% territory, made 132 of 153 tackles (down on recent games), Italy made 172 of 208, Conceded 9 penalties (6 in the first half) to Italy’s 14, Ireland lost 4 of 20 lineouts (all 4 in scoring positions), Italy made 14 clean breaks to Ireland 5 and lastly Ireland conceded 15 turnovers to Italy’s 14. For a final score of 26-16 to the visitors.
So looking at those stats, you can see that Ireland ran well, penalty count is still in single figures which is good. 6 conceded in the first half only 3 in the second half which isn’t bad. Losing 4 lineouts was horrible to watch. Especially given the work done to get into the position to score off the lineout.
The big worry, and maybe it was seeing an interview with Ronan O’Gara this morning that set me off, but it appeared that the leaders we have on the pitch didn’t perform on the day. That is not saying they are not leaders or that Ireland are in trouble, it is saying that in tough times they weren’t able to navigate the game. There was at least 1 leader in each position, the only ones who appeared to show up where O’Mahony and Earls. Again this is not a worry going ahead; it is just a worry for last Saturday. We have the string pullers at 9 and 10 who are not quite firing at full capacity as of now. Does Joe play them back into form? Keep them in situ and assume (correctly) that they will finish the competition back to their best? Or does he push Cooney / Carberry / Marmian / Carty into the action a bit earlier than planned? These are the type of decisions that are the reason why we are online rugby trolls and Joe is the coach of Ireland.
A lot of things didn’t go to plan on Saturday, they appeared to be the simple things that we expect a team (even when playing badly) to be able to execute. But Ireland where unable to. The leaders where trying to get their game back into shape and that affected their ability to run a bad game.
That is all it was, nothing more nothing less. Ireland will get themselves together this week in training and next week before welcoming France to the Aviva, a France team who will be playing ball after beating Scotland. It is not a given win as expected on the opening day, but I expect a massive reaction from Ireland both on the pitch and in the stands.
Wales on the other hand have taken their pre-tournament form into the tournament. They have blooded new players against Italy and have deflated the tyres on the chariot.
Starting with the stats: Wales ran 368 metres, had 65% possession for 68% territory, made 122 of 136 tackles, England made 212 of 227 (savage work), Wales conceded 3 penalties to England’s 9. Wales lost 3 of 13 lineouts and only 1 scrum while conceding 14 turnovers to England’s 13 for a final score of 21-13. Wales scored 2 tries a penalty and a conversion in the second half to a single England penalty.
The story of the game was England marauding forward like the beasts they are. Living on the line of the law with their toes over it, sometimes Sinkler had his entire body over the line, but it is only an infringement if the referee sees it 😉
In the words of the great Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan ‘it’s only cheating if you get caught’.
So this result is actually great for both teams. England are now back in their box, they expected a win but where left sucking in so much air that the first 4 rows of the millennium stadium had to be treated for oxygen deprivation. The finish line is further and further away for England now, when they see the big players roll off because they aren’t fit enough it affects them badly. Wales knew that and exploited it fantastically. England has work ons, and when they have work ons the arrogance stops and that is when they play their best stuff.
Wales on the other hand are working through every game 1 at a time, not worrying about rwc or even the 6 Nations, they play what is in front of them and you could see that over the weekend. England trained for a week in Portugal to beat Ireland assuming that if you beat Ireland, you will beat the rest. Sport isn’t like that.
Wales a great bet for the double this year.
Finishing off, some of the reaction to the wales match was a bit yucky. Cheering England losing to Wales is like me cheering that you won the lottery. It makes no sense in me being happy unless I win the lottery! We also need to check ourselves, there is a murky and rotten few who are ruining rugby online for people. Too many windows and not enough mirrors in some houses!