'It wasn't the inexperienced guys who didn't perform' - Shane Horgan not impressed with Ireland regulars
Shane Horgan feels that a number of Ireland players fail to give compelling cases for their inclusion next weekend after struggling past Fiji at the Aviva Stadium last night.
The home side dug out a 23-20 victory in an entertaining game, but Joe Schmidt will be disappointed that his team let a 17-3 lead slip late in the first half after crossing for three tries.
Joey Carbery started brightly but ended the game with a suspected fractured forearm, while most players had mixed displays, besides some eye-catching contributions from Munster duo Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway along with a bulldozing bench cameo from Cian Healy.
Speaking on RTE after the game, Horgan voiced his frustration at the overall performance, and named a couple of star players who didn't hit their top level.
"A lot of them missed an opportunity," Horgan said.
"A lot went on, particularly in that second half, that Joe will be pulling his hair out about. We know you only get so many chances. It actually wasn't the very inexperienced guys who didn't perform today. You would have expected more from the guys with a bit more experience, especially in the pack.
"Jordi Murphy. Jack McGrath didn't look fit. He looked gassed out and didn't have the contribution that he normally has. Devin Toner to a lesser degree. Ultan Dillane.
"Defensively we were comfortable and it was actually our errors that let them back in the game."
One area where Horgan felt Ireland were particularly lax was at the breakdown. On three occasions in the second half, Fiji forced turnover penalties in their own 22.
"For a team that prides itself on the accuracy and quality of its ruck ball, we have given them kudos for the whole Joe Schmidt reign, that is what they base everything they do on. The rucking today was poor, we weren't getting enough numbers there," Horgan said.
Horgan feels that the team's attitude about facing Fiji could account for some of the sloppy play, with Ireland opting to take Fiji on in an expansive contest rather than stick to their usual game plan.
"It felt like a malaise," Horgan said.
"There wasn't a huge amount of control for what we were doing. That 9/10 axis didn't control it as much as they should. Is there something deep down in the subconscious that Ireland play against a team like Fiji in different way? That we think we can play a little bit looser immediately. That is fine, if you are extremely accurate when you do that but too often we were shovelling the ball to the man next to us and there were a lot of handling errors."