Saturday 17 August 2019

Five things we learned from Ireland's win over Italy

Ireland's Garry Ringrose skips inside Alessandro Zanni of Italy during the Guinness Summer Series 2019 win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's Garry Ringrose skips inside Alessandro Zanni of Italy during the Guinness Summer Series 2019 win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It was a bittersweet start to the World Cup preparations for Joe Schmidt and his team.

1 – Carbery's injury is a major cause for concern

The swagger was back as Joey Carbery mercurially ran the show until disaster struck and left every Irish supporter concerned for the severity of his injury.

Carbery once again looked to the manor born as he ran Italy ragged with his clever scything lines and his ability to get those around him involved.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt . Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt . Photo: Sportsfile

A well-worked first-half try highlighted his undoubted running threat as he looked very sharp. Given the amount of rugby he missed last season, that perhaps shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but nevertheless, it was clear that he was determined to make the most of his opportunity.

Then in the 50 minute, Carbery got his body caught in an awkward position when making a tackle and he felt the full force of a prop landing on his trapped left ankle.

It didn't look good and the motorised stretcher was immediately called for. Thankfully, he managed to get to his feet, but he did need the assistance of the stretcher to leave the pitch.

Carbery now faces an anxious wait to determine the extent of the damage and Joe Schmidt will be hoping that the injury was not as bad as feared.

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The 23-year old is central to Schmidt's World Cup plans and losing him would be an absolutely massive blow.

2 – Ireland get back to winning ways

The opposition and the subdued occasion aside, it was simply non-negotiable that Ireland got back to winning ways to help ease the painful memories of their last outing in Cardiff.

Yes, it was a very different team and the stakes were incomparable, but it was important that this experimental side got the show on the road and helped build momentum for the weeks ahead.

Chris Farrell of Ireland is tackled by Ian McKinley of Italy during the Guinness Summer Series 2019 match against Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Chris Farrell of Ireland is tackled by Ian McKinley of Italy during the Guinness Summer Series 2019 match against Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Schmidt must now decide whether or not to cut the numbers before next week's warm weather camp in Portugal and the feeling is that there will be some casualties.

We are unlikely to see Ireland's strongest XV until they return to the Aviva on September 7 to face Wales in the final warm-up game, which means that there will be more chances to impress along the way.

Not everyone will be afforded that luxury however, and when they reflect on this game, there are a couple of players who will feel like they could and should have pressed their claims more.

Jack McGrath for instance, will have been gutted to have been called ashore at half-time, especially because his withdrawal saw Andrew Porter switch to loosehead and remind the coaching staff of his versatility in being able to play both sides of the scrum.

3 – Farrell lays down a firm early marker

It has been a while since Chris Farrell has started a game in the number 12 jersey and even though he might have fancied a crack in his more preferred 13, he was outstanding in the inside channel.

It's a position that the powerful centre could end up playing for Munster further down the line and it was telling that Schmidt opted to have a look at him there.

It is also important to note that Farrell got a chance to play alongside Garry Ringrose and not a less experienced player.

Farrell thrived outside of Carbery with the pair clearly building on their relationship at Munster.

Schmidt is not exactly short of midfield options, but Farrell advanced his claims to make the plane to Japan more than any other Irish player on show today.

He mixed his usual aggression (see his thumping fourth minute tackle) with the kind of subtlety that he is becoming more renowned for.

Farrell's lovely soft hands to put Carbery over for his try was the mark of a man fully confident in his ability and it was refreshing to see Ireland come up with a bit of invention so close to the line.

Later in the first half, Farrell made a huge carry off a lineout, which ended up in Dave Kearney scoring in the opposite corner.

Schmidt has long been an admirer of Farrell and it's easy to see why. The head coach will have been very pleased by what he saw.

4 – Going back to basics yields dividends

It didn't take a genius to work out that Ireland have been working hard on their exit strategies and they got plenty of joy out of Carbery's aerial approach.

Time and time again, Andrew Conway retrieved the out-half's towering kicks as Ireland returned to a tactic that has brought them plenty of joy in the past.

Doing so against better opposition may not yield the same positive results, but there is no reason why Ireland shouldn't be looking to utilise their kicking game more often.

Their handling in the 'red zone' was also quite slick for the most part with Jordan Larmour stepping into the line and looking very comfortable throwing passes off both sides.

Rustiness was to be expected but there is plenty to build on over the next three warm-up games.

5 – Kleyn announces his arrival on the international stage

Ireland's newest debutant was given a céad míle fáilte when his name was read out over the PA at the Aviva Stadium and Jean Kleyn seemed to relish the occasion.

The Munster lock has been brought into the squad to perform a certain role as a tighthead scrummager as well as that dirty unseen work that so often goes unnoticed.

As Kleyn has admitted himself in the past, he loves the physicality, so smashing the opposition at rucks is second nature to him and he certainly did plenty of that.

He added plenty of power in the scrum that was largely dominant and although there is still plenty of room for improvement, Kleyn will be all the better for his first taste of international rugby.

A blood injury on the hour temporary halted his progress before he returned and finished the game strongly.

The 25-year old is still up against it in his bid to make the plane, but given Schmidt's penchant for a bruising lock, that could yet work in Kleyn's favour.

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