Friday 9 December 2016

Impressive start but still lots to work on

Looking good in attack but Lam's boys need to be better defensively

Johnny O'Connor

Published 09/10/2015 | 02:30

John Muldoon thanks the Connacht faithful
John Muldoon thanks the Connacht faithful

There's only one show in town from an Irish perspective this weekend, and the game against France has all the makings of classic.

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It wasn't the prettiest win over Italy last Sunday, but it could do wonders for Ireland after the hype that followed the victories over Canada and Romania.

In the Pro12, Connacht had another fantastic result - five tries and five points against a team they struggled against recently is great.

They have their break now ahead of a daunting 16-week block, and with the size of their squad Connacht needed to pick up the maximum against Cardiff.

Connacht have so much to build on after a win like that - once again they had an incredible scrum and lineout.

However, the defence around the fringes was a bit disappointing. And for one of the Cardiff tries, Quinn Roux was particularly at fault. He was having a minor altercation rather than moving into position to defend the drive. One quick recycle later, and Cardiff were in.

That's an elementary error, and he is one of the more experienced members of the squad too, so he should know better.

Rugby is not a complicated game and in general the defence has been really solid. Tiernan O'Halloran covers the gaps really well at the back.

If Connacht can get their positioning right in open play, with the scorelines they are putting up, that's the missing part of the puzzle.

It was disappointing to give away the two bonus points, but come the end of the season Connacht should be way ahead of Cardiff in the standings.

For Ireland, they weren't so impressive against Italy, and it was a case of getting the job done by whatever means necessary.

They are into the quarter-finals, so from that point of view you couldn't ask for more, and I'm sure England would love to be in that position right now.

But they're out, and must face Uruguay in Manchester tomorrow, knowing even if they win by 100 points the damage has been done already.

Depleted

The Wallabies look strong, and they should have too much for a depleted Welsh side tomorrow. Although with the way Warren Gatland can motivate a group, you just never know.

With Wales, injury has cost them and there have been so many casualties elsewhere throughout this World Cup, but you have to hand it to the Irish medical staff, they have been excellent.

Ireland are a great team and they also have a world class medical staff to back them. You have Keith Fox who used to be involved with Connacht, Jason Cowman and James Allen from Leinster, and Eanna Falvey, the doctor. They leave nothing to chance.

Even if a player doesn't play well on a given day you can guarantee that they have been primed. Detail is everything in rugby - physical preparation for games is huge.

You have got to have the right mindset for the game, then you have to train for it, prepare for it correctly, and then play the game itself.

Ireland are primed for a crack at France now - it's going to be fantastic and that win over Italy will stand Ireland in good stead.

Ireland will know that they have enough in the tank to up it a few levels and last week has helped focus the minds.

The review session would have been an interesting place to be, earlier in the week, but I don't think anybody would have be too harsh on each other. It's all about the pool decider now, and Ireland will have had this game in the back of their minds for some time.

When you are the twice-European champions going into this sort of fixture you will be confident that you can get the job done. France haven't been fantastic in this World Cup, but you would expect them to bring the best out of Ireland.

The Top 14 is not a fast, free-flowing league - these guys are normally big, cumbersome units - so Joe Schmidt will look to have Ireland playing with a quick tempo.

Saying all that, France have a fantastic World Cup pedigree and history tells us that they produce their biggest performances when the eyes of the world are on them.

Irish Independent

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