Consistency must be next Irish goal

Eric Miller

Fate certainly played its hand as I made my first (and long overdue) journey to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday for what turned out to be a day to remember for the men in green.

Boy, did the country and its rugby team need this one. To be honest, most of the people I spoke to beforehand fancied a home victory. I too felt the same, but it was always going to be difficult for Declan Kidney's men as a victory was the minimum requirement after a relatively difficult campaign.

Those predictions also came with warnings from some of the English folk I talked to, who, despite the tendency to side with the home team, emphasised that if it was a World Cup game, England would be a stronger proposition.

I understand their point, as consistency and an apparent inability of Ireland to play their best, unless they are underdogs, has continued to affect our overall progression up until now.

Ireland have ended their Six Nations campaign on a high, but with a caveat that this win has to be the template on which to develop a consistent approach to the game.

Ireland seized the initiative from the get-go, they had the look of a team that had prepared very well for this one and England simply were not ready for the onslaught that overwhelmed them and knocked them completely out of their stride.


The urgency and collective effort to win led to a string of hammer blows to an English team whose body language by the interval was that of a defeated and deflated outfit.

Ireland picked off their scores and had much more savvy in attack. In defence, they were only too happy to swallow England's big midfield runners when needed.

Ireland's discipline in this area made you feel that they knew what England were going to throw at them. To be fair, the visitors tried to play a decent type of game, but it needed far more invention and deception within their framework to really put the home side under pressure.

In recent games the Irish team have become very adept in the double tackle, developing the ability to hold the ball carriers up so as to gain the scrum feed.

This suited Ireland on a day where the scrum, apart from anything else, epitomised the workrate and effort by all involved.

It's always hard singling out players after such a collective performance, but the front five's domination was highlighted by the workrate of Donncha O'Callaghan and Rory Best, whilst in behind we had much more invention than of late with all of the backs brilliant on the day.

Keith Earls looked to the manor born at full-back and Jonny Sexton had a stormer.

The fact that Ronan O'Gara came on to close the game out in such a clinical manner meant that one and all were in it together on a day when everyone looked as if they were pulling for one another -- and enjoying every moment of it.

When Kidney mentions that games are won on small things, the right collective mental approach means that any side will, more often than not, fall on the right side of the whitewash.

In that context, it was a great day for Ireland.

It's hard to say at this point whether Ireland were playing for individual pride, which happened to help everything and everyone click on the day, or whether something more long-term had galvanised the group in the week leading up to the game.

These answers should become more apparent in the coming matches. Overall, there are many aspects of Ireland's play that have improved, whilst I feel the bench could be used a lot more effectively, but areas such as the scrum and breakdown can now become real strengths for Ireland.

So, a good day at the office, but as an old coach of mine used to say, "you're only as good as your next game" -- that will eventually ring true for this team.

We have the talent and the will to play up there with the best, the same collective feelings need to be harnessed in the coming months.

The World Cup is fast approaching and in one sense the jury is still out on which Ireland will eventually turn up.

Saturday was a great start and much better than most would have expected.