Monday 19 March 2018

Irish must follow All Blacks' blueprint

Peter Bills

Simple! Ireland were handed the perfect illustration of how to shut down the Australians successfully in the Tri-Nations match in Auckland on Saturday.

New Zealand built their comprehensive 30-14 victory at Eden Park on the premise of matching and beating their opponents on the gain line. They did it so well that the game was all but over by half-time, when the hosts led 17-0.

The greatest danger to Ireland, who meet Australia in the crucial game of World Cup Pool C on September 17, will be the creativity, pace, quick thinking and inventiveness of the Wallaby backs.

But they can be negated, as the Kiwis showed.

By smashing the Wallabies on and even before they reached the gain line, the powerful New Zealanders forced their foes to attack off the back foot. That is seldom a recipe for success and Australia made so many mistakes, all the All Blacks had to do was wait and then capitalise.

It was a perfect demonstration of nullifying the talent of Wallaby half-backs Will Genia and Quade Cooper, plus those outside them like Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor.

Just once, when Beale steamed into a gap to make a second-half try for wing Digby Ioane, could the Wallabies really produce their best. Otherwise, the All Black forwards were in the ascendancy and controlled the match, especially at the breakdown.

But the quandary for Ireland coach Declan Kidney is whether his own forwards possess the power, intensity and pace to cut off the Aussies' go-forward ball at source. There was so much more strength, speed and conviction about the All Blacks' game and the pressure on their opponents seldom eased.

Can Ireland play that way and sustain it for 80 minutes? It will require high standards of fitness, speed and discipline from the Irish forwards to match such a level of mastery over the Wallabies.

The All Blacks fought ferociously and they were far superior in the set-pieces, especially the line-outs.

Even when Australia did get the ball wide, the outstanding New Zealand defence held firm. Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino and Dan Carter all tackled and covered heroically to shut down the frustrated Wallabies.

Irish Independent

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