Friday 21 October 2016

'Ruthless in the red zone and wing changes ' - Where Ireland could improve for final two games

Daniel James

Published 29/02/2016 | 15:19

Jamie Heaslip of Ireland is tackled by George Kruis of England
Jamie Heaslip of Ireland is tackled by George Kruis of England

On a frustrating day for Irish rugby, Joe Schmidt’s reigning Six Nations champions failed to register their first win of the competition and here are four areas to improve ahead of the visit of Italy.

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Introduce Zebo and Gilroy for attacking edge

Andrew Trimble and Keith Earls have struggled in attack, while the Ulster winger had an uncharacteristically poor day at the office from a defensive standpoint.

With Ireland crying out for more attacking thrust, Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo could pose more problems with ball in hand. Gilroy has been electric in the Guinness Pro12 recently and deserves another shot in the team, although critics argue he lacks the aerial ability or consistency in defence that Joe Schmidt seems to favour.

A combination of Gilroy and Zebo would have plenty of flair, and could hopefully see a rise in Ireland’s try-count for the tournament.

Dillane to be given chance from the start

After a highly impressive cameo off the bench against England, Italy represents a good opportunity to showcase his talents from the start.

The powerful second row made an instant impact when he came on off the bench, including a break in England’s 22 where he linked up well with Josh van der Flier.

With title ambitions over for another year, and South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to come later in the year, Schmidt may look to give the Kerry native more Test experience against the Azzurri.

More expansive game needed

Ireland need to attack wider to pose more questions of defensive strategies. For the duration of the England defeat, Ireland were focussed primarily on shield passes out the back door. It worked on occasions, except the ball rarely found its way out to the wings.

The space was being created but wasn’t being attacked. Ireland could have made much more ground if they had simply utilised space to attack the English defence

Ruthless in the red zone

It goes without say that Ireland need to be more clinical in the opposition’s twenty two if they are to emerge from their current slump.

The players appear inhibited at times and have become somewhat one dimensional with ball in hand. The picking and going and crash balls need to be reduced, and in a lot of cases, simple hands through the backline could reap more dividends, as proved by Saturday’s opponents England when Mike Brown dived over in the 63rd minute.

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