Thursday 23 November 2017

Fine-tuning required to shake some life into lethargic campaign

A few minor tweaks in key areas can get this Ireland side firing again writes Jim Glennon

Jim Glennon

T here is little positivity towards an Irish team which has two wins from three in the Six Nations Championship -- how success has spoiled us.

The two games left are away to a vulnerable Wales and at home against England, who will almost certainly be going for a Grand Slam. (Somebody said to me during the week that there are so many banana skins at the Aviva for England, the game should be sponsored by Chiquita.) So why the lack of positivity? First and foremost, there is of course the success of the last number of years.

But having said that, there is a genuine feeling of frustration, not only with the team but it would appear among the team also -- that they could be doing a lot better. The next issue is discipline where 33 points conceded from penalties in the last two games says it all. I wrote last week that two referees were unlikely to be wrong. I extend that this week by saying not just three referees but three teams of officials made up of nine international referees simply can't be wrong.

The breakdown appears to be the area causing the most trouble and a lot of the penalties are being conceded there. Declan Kidney obviously has issues concerning interpretation and he will continue to work on those, both on the training pitch and in the referee's room.

Either way, the ball being delivered from the ruck in attacking positions is not quick enough for our backline. We are now, for the first time in a long time, getting some quality ball from the scrum and Mike Ross appears to be doing a good job at anchoring, and a little bit more besides.

We're struggling at the line-out though and the backline as a result hasn't really functioned as it can.

Gordon D'Arcy isn't performing and this raises the question for me of what Paddy Wallace is doing on the bench. It appears that he won't be used in place of D'Arcy and he is not being used as a substitute so something has to give.

Wallace on the bench appears to cover only numbers 12 and 13, D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll. There are other options which could be used to much greater effect; Andrew Trimble, for example, who could give a far greater breadth of cover across the backline.

Equally, the question must be asked as to why Denis Leamy is on the bench as it is blatantly obvious that David Wallace, the openside flanker, will be replaced in every game and that is the one position that Leamy doesn't cover. There is a strong case to be made for the inclusion of Shane Jennings if we accept the necessity for having two opensides in the match-day squad.

The difficulties in the lineouts as well could allow for the possibility of a reshuffle in the back row to produce some added hype.

And while Kevin McLaughlin at 6 would be an option, releasing Seán O'Brien to the openside, my own preference would be for Rhys Ruddock to slot in. He appears to have answered any questions asked of him at any level at which he has played.

I suppose for the recent convert to the game it's reasonable to wonder what's gone wrong but for those of us who have been around a bit longer this is really a question of how can it be tweaked ever so slightly to put the entire operation in the groove.

It's more than possible that in three weeks' time we could be toasting a Triple Crown and a share of the Championship and we still mightn't have fixed our problems.

Sunday Indo Sport

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