Saturday 16 December 2017

Putting Ireland in the fast lane

Stringer confident new half-back partner Sexton is perfect foil to get Irish on front foot

Peter Stringer. Photo: Sportsfile
Peter Stringer. Photo: Sportsfile

Hugh Farrelly

HE may be a few weeks away from 33rd birthday and hours away from his 95th Ireland international but Peter Stringer has the enthusiasm and energy of a debutant as he prepares for his first match alongside Jonathan Sexton.

"Peter's bouncing around training, but he's bouncing around training all the time," said Ireland coach Declan Kidney. "It's always great when you can give a player good news, he's the same pro when he's off the team as when he's on it."

Stringer has been partnered with his Munster colleague Ronan O'Gara for more than 10 years at provincial and international level but, although tomorrow represents a new departure, the scrum-half is confident the partnership can flourish and says the two have struck up an accord in training as well as combining well late on against New Zealand.

"It's a new partnership but I found the ease of that transition quite good," said Stringer. "Communication-wise it was great, there were no dramas there. I had a couple of minutes of working with him and things moved quite fluidly. It's good.

"Jonathan is a guy who likes to take the ball quite flat at times. He's not a player who likes to sit in the pocket and distribute, he likes to get involved. For me that's great, I like to get the ball out in front of a guy and get him moving on to it and get the backline moving.

"I've only had a few sessions with Jonathan but he's vocal, he takes the ball flat and his communication for when I'm picking a ball out of the ruck is pretty good. It's worked really well. We'll see now how that goes come Sunday, but it's a partnership that's going in the right direction."

Stringer's arrival off the bench against South Africa and the All Blacks coincided with a marked increase in tempo and he believes that is the key against the Pumas tomorrow.


"I think it's always been the thing. Every team wants to play with tempo. For a team, attacking with tempo means the defensive team is going on the back foot even quicker. So it's just all about not letting them set the defensive line, not letting them get organised and to put doubts in their head and to take advantage of gaps that they might have if they haven't had time to get organised.

"Every team tries to play with tempo and if the ball is quick, then game plans and game patterns seem to go out the window. If the referees are reffing it according to the new laws, then it's perfect for a scrum-half and it just speeds the whole game up and it's what guys want to be a part of.

"Guys just have to use their natural ability and their instincts to play rugby and that's what the coaches have been saying to us, we've all these structures in place for when the ball slows up and to try and get quicker ball again, but if you get over the gain-line and make a line-break, then it's just 'play ball'. You just try and read what's in front of you."

Another veteran returning to the starting line-up is full-back Geordan Murphy, who comes in for long-term knee injury victim Rob Kearney. The Leicester man carries plenty of attacking potency from the back and believes Ireland have to make maximum use of the backline talent at their disposal.

"I'm excited to be playing with all the lads in the backline," said Murphy. "I think we're very lucky. Irish backs are respected and feared equally across the world, no matter who I played with, from whatever country, they always ask about Brian and Gordon, and even Jonny now and Rog.

"We're very lucky to have these players in this country. Maybe when you're on the inside (with the provinces) it's not so easy to appreciate but from my point of view I appreciate it because I've got guys (at Leicester) from New Zealand and Australia saying, 'what would they do here'.

"We are lucky. We have strength in depth and we just have to go out and show that at the weekend."

Irish Independent

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