Thursday 19 September 2019

Larmour: 'We pride ourselves on defence but we let ourselves down'

England 57 Ireland 15

Larmour: ‘Let ourselves down’. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Larmour: ‘Let ourselves down’. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Thirty-four missed tackles, 24 turnovers conceded, eight tries against. Never under Joe Schmidt have Ireland been easier to beat than they were on Saturday.

The watchword of this era has been "accuracy" but it went out the window at Twickenham.

After the game, Andy Farrell said a quick hello to his son and baby grandson before retreating to the dressing-room where the fallout could begin. The current defence coach and future head coach can rarely have endured a more uncomfortable afternoon in his long and storied career in professional sport.

On a day where a win would have put them on top of the world rankings, Ireland succumbed to a record loss to England and the biggest defeat of the Joe Schmidt era by some distance.

They began slowly but looked to find their feet in a promising opening quarter that saw Jordan Larmour pounce on Jacob Stockdale's chip to score a well-worked try.

England then scored 47 unanswered points and by the time the Leinster youngster reported for media duties beneath the stands his score had become a foot-note. "Our defence is something we pride ourselves on, we spend a lot of time on it, studying it and working on it, so to hear a stat like that, it's not great and it's something we have to address and work on," the 22-year-old said. "Definitely, we pride ourselves on our defence and we let ourselves down today.

Ross Byrne drops a pass under pressure from England's Joe Marler. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ross Byrne drops a pass under pressure from England's Joe Marler. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"The try was nice, the ball just bounced into my arms, really, and I just had to dot it down.

"But going into half-time, we felt good, and the message was to just try to win the second half. And we just came out and gave a few penalties away, dropped a few balls, and just kind of compounded errors, really, which is something that we don't normally do. If we make an error we snap out of it and move on to the next moment, but today we kept compounding errors. We have to focus on us now and see what we can improve on."

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There will be lots of that, the set-piece malfunctions meant they couldn't get into the game.

But there is something visceral about the defensive disorganisation and the poor decision-making that will hurt Ireland most.

Andrew Porter tackles England's Willi Heinz. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Andrew Porter tackles England's Willi Heinz. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Captain Rory Best suggested there was an attitude issue and that will not sit well with the players or the coaches.

England's blend of power, pace and good decision-making made it a difficult afternoon, but Ireland were made to look like a struggling tier-two nation rather than one of the major forces of the game.

In the early stages, we got a glimpse of what they've been working on in training as Rob Kearney countered from the back and even linked the play by offering himself as a play-making option.

But all that had long faded to memory by the time Luke Cowan-Dickie pounced on Sean Cronin's over-throw to score.

Bundee Aki breaks through to score Ireland's second try. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Bundee Aki breaks through to score Ireland's second try. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

That was one of two tries that came directly from the ball sailing over the lineout and that issue would appear to be fixable.

More concerning are the two tries scored by Joe Cokanasiga off first-phase ball as Ireland's midfield decision-making collapsed in the face of a well-organised and slickly executed English attack.

The sight of Maro Itoje and Manu Tuilagi waltzing in unopposed between the 15-metre lines will gall Farrell, as will George Kruis bundling his way in through three Irish tacklers.

The home side more than merited their win, but Ireland made it easy.

England - E Daly; J Cokanasiga, M Tuilagi (J Marchant 78), O Farrell (capt) (P Francis 71), J May; G Ford, B Youngs (W Heinz 54); J Marler (M Vunipola 61-79), J George (L Cowan-Dickie ), K Sinckler (D Cole 60); M Itoje, G Kruis; T Curry (C Lawes 58), S Underhill (M Wilson 59), B Vunipola.

The Ireland team look on as England convert another try. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
The Ireland team look on as England convert another try. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland - R Kearney (A Conway 53); J Larmour, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; R Byrne (J Carty 55), C Murray (L McGrath 31-38), h-t); C Healy (J McGrath 39), R Best (capt) (S Cronin 54), T Furlong (A Porter 54); I Henderson (T Beirne 61), J Kleyn (D Toner 54); P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Ref: N Owens (Wales)

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