Sunday 11 December 2016

Hard to see home defeat if the boys perform

Confidence high and Rassie's squad look hungry for more wins

David Wallace

Published 25/11/2016 | 02:30

Peter O’Mahony, in training at UL this week, has been released from Ireland duty to bolster Rassie Erasmus’s side Picture: Sportsfile
Peter O’Mahony, in training at UL this week, has been released from Ireland duty to bolster Rassie Erasmus’s side Picture: Sportsfile

Ireland and New Zealand played out a brilliant game, with a really high standard but it was hard to watch at times last weekend.

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Ireland came within inches of a number of tries but just couldn't take their chances. At times they weren't allowed to because of some terrible refereeing and that made the result all the more difficult to take.

South African referee Jaco Peyper didn't cover himself in glory in the match, especially with the scrum penalty where Kieran Read just detached himself from the scrum and disrupted the Irish ball without a care in the world, other than a penalty.

Ireland played really well, but the injuries hurt them dearly, even though the guys who came on played really well.

In a game like that you need someone like CJ Stander in the red zone; he has that cutting edge that might have got Ireland across the whitewash but it wasn't to be.

Damage

Having said that Josh van der Flier was able to find gaps as the game wore on, but the damage was, arguably, already done at that stage.

Saying all that Ireland are one of the top teams in the world now, and the evidence is plain to see - they pushed New Zealand to play their best game.

The scoreline wasn't a fair reflection of how the game was played out, and Ireland deserved at least one or two tries on the back of an extra yellow card, or penalty try.

Nevertheless Ireland would be disappointed in themselves that they never converted the chances they had to get over the line.

Ireland are the only team in a long time to force New Zealand to play like that, and that was the biggest display from them in a number of matches, including World Cups.

The All Blacks looked very threatened and they came out to play that way. But Ireland could have been right in it at the death and won it had things gone their way.

Like every other team out there, Ireland aren't good enough to capitalise on the turnover ball and loose kicks, to the standard that New Zealand do, but in every other facet Ireland are just as good if not better.

The All Blacks just have this innate ability to offload, be able to offload, and run support lines to gather those offloads. That is something they are taught at a young age.

They are given licence to do it at club rugby and Ireland must emulate that in certain respects. Ireland might play in slightly wetter circumstances at times but it's not too dissimilar.

I have been down in New Zealand during the winter time and it's not too much better than this climate.

But Ireland will have taken their learnings from that game and that will be a massive plus going into the Australia game, even with the hangover of the injuries to key players.

Australia possess such attacking flair, but they are very susceptible to being broken down by this Irish team, and this game could be the most important one of the series for Ireland.

As I said, it was great to beat New Zealand, but a win over the Aussies would really cement Joe Schmidt's side as a top three team in world rugby.

Back in the Pro12 Munster will have their chance to go top of the table when they clash with Treviso in Thomond Park tomorrow and will be helped by Peter O'Mahony's release from international duty.

The Italians should not be taken for granted, because they have come close to some big upsets against the likes of Cardiff Blues and Glasgow this season.

They also beat Dragons in Round 4, but Munster should have enough to edge it, and then they move on to bigger and better tests over the Christmas with a massive game to come away to Glasgow next time out.

But this is the perfect way to build momentum, and if they can score another impressive victory against Treviso, Munster will be brimming with confidence against the 2015 Pro12 champions in Scotstoun.

Following on from that it's back into the Champions Cup, and back-to-back fixtures against Leicester Tigers next month. Munster fell at this stage last year - it shouldn't happening again.

Irish Independent

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