Wednesday 21 February 2018

It's hard to believe but Ireland's attack is almost identical to when they won the Six Nations

England duo Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph tackle Ireland full-back Rob Kearney. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters
England duo Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph tackle Ireland full-back Rob Kearney. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

It has been a frustrating Six Nations for Ireland so far, with no wins from three games a far fall from the previous two seasons where Joe Schmidt's men recorded four wins from five and were rewarded with back to back titles.

Given they managed two wins from three against England, Wales and France during those successful campaigns, the fact they only came away with a single draw this time around is a pretty stark statistic.

The blame has predominately been laid on the Irish attack, with two tries and just 10 second half points recorded across Ireland's three encounters to date.

And while the attack has visibly struggled, it actually isn't a whole lot different to how the team fared offensively in the championship-winning campaign of 2015.

This year, Ireland have scored two tries, made 14 line breaks, beaten 44 defenders, made five offloads and gained 1033m.

Last year, in the same set of fixtures, they also scored two tries, made seven line breaks, beat 59 defenders, made 12 offloads and gained 952m.

So across the board, the numbers are very similar - the team has even performed better in some categories this year than their championship-winning selves did.

What does that tell us?

Mostly, that the team's high-intensity game based on rucking and defence isn't as effective with the depleted squad. Ireland kicked six more penalties against the big three last year vs this year, which is another indicator that Ireland haven't been as clinical as in previous years.

Their ultra-efficient kicking game hasn't been executed with the same accuracy either, and they aren't forcing as many kickable penalties as a result.

If you remember after Ireland beat England last year to make it three wins from three, people were already questioning whether Ireland were playing too limited a game plan.

What saved Joe Schmidt from criticism then was that his side finally cut loose in the Six Nations decider against Scotland and won the championship on the back of a display brimming with attacking intent.

Ireland have a similar opportunity to finish the campaign on a swashbuckling high this year with the visit of Italy and Scotland but the championship is already gone.

Ireland need every other part of their game to be firing to compensate for their struggling attack and unfortunately for the supporters, that hasn't been the case in this campaign.

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