Saturday 21 September 2019

Rúaidhrí O'Connor: 'Kilcoyne books place on plane to Japan as Joe Schmidt faces selection dilemma after Wales win'

Ryan Elias of Wales is tackled by Dave Kilcoyne of Ireland
Ryan Elias of Wales is tackled by Dave Kilcoyne of Ireland

Rúaidhrí O'Connor at the Principality Stadium

Not perfect, but something Joe Schmidt can work with.

Although it elevated Ireland to No 2 in the world, this win over Wales' reserves was never going to solve Ireland's issues in one fell-swoop.

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However, three weeks' out from the World Cup opener against Scotland there is a bit of momentum behind the men in green once again.

Warren Gatland spoke about derailing Ireland's World Cup at Cardiff, but it appears they are back on track. The lack of any obvious injuries helped lift the mood.

After a record loss to England at Twickenham, this was about putting pride back in the jersey.

Before the warm-ups got underway, the coaches agreed to mix and match their teams for this game before going close to full-strength in next weekend's return fixture in Dublin.

Warren Gatland kept his side of the bargain, but Schmidt was compelled to pick a few more front-liners than he'd planned.

Those who remained from the 57-15 defeat took a week's worth of pain out on the Welsh in the collision, those who had watched from home decided that this was an opportunity too good to turn down.

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Still, England were at full-strength at Twickenham, Wales had two debutants and a new out-half.

It's not a fair comparison, but the players can only play against what's in front of them and they made the most of it as Schmidt prepares to submit his squad to World Rugby early next week.

Their first try was an expression of their desire to break free of last week's depression.

From Will Addison's brilliant take in the air, to Dave Kilcoyne's superb line-break and Jack Carty's clean break and clever distribution, it was all sharply done.

Andrew Conway appeared on his out-half's shoulder and seared through, Chris Farrell's line helped take out a slew of Welshmen and the winger found Jacob Stockdale wide for the first of his tries.

The doom and gloom lifted just enough.

There were mistakes, but overall it was an improvement in attitude and execution.

Kilcoyne was perhaps the living embodiment of Ireland's aggression as he booked his place on the plane to Japan, while Addison, Tadhg Beirne, Conway and Jack Conan made major moves towards playing leading roles.

Stockdale got two tries and looked dangerous, Iain Henderson was big in the collision and Peter O'Mahony was a thorn in the Welsh side.

Bundee Aki was back to his best, thundering into everything that moved in red with reckless abandon.

Carty was named man of the match and had some good moments, doing enough to secure the No 3 out-half spot on the plane, but Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath will cause much debate in the squad selection meeting tomorrow.

Niall Scannell impressed out of touch and did well in open play, James Ryan was world class as ever and Chris Farrell did his job well.

Andrew Porter came on at loosehead and destroyed the Welsh scrum, announcing himself as a contender for the No 1 jersey as well.

And, while the rest of the bench won't be happy that they were forced to defend a Welsh surge in the final quarter and conceded two tries while doing so, there were elements of the effort that they can be happy with.

Rory Best made a big turnover on the line and threw himself into his task, Luke McGrath and Garry Ringrose – operating on the wing - made big plays at big moments.

Schmidt will be pleased with some elements, less so with others; but this is a much better platform to launch a World Cup.

The Welsh team that lands in Dublin next week will be far stronger and will ask tougher questions, but with Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls among those who could come back there is a chance to build.

Schmidt's selection will be closely watched.

Do the old-guard automatically come back in or will some of those who impressed in Cardiff be rewarded for their display on his final game as Ireland coach in Dublin?

Those are the questions that will dominate his thoughts on the flight home tonight.

Which is a lot better than the kind of demons that were in his head as he left London last weekend.

Online Editors

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