Sunday 21 January 2018

Fitzgerald takes a dip and assures us 'we're on the cusp'

Luke Fitzgerald has no worries about Ireland's ability to adapt
Luke Fitzgerald has no worries about Ireland's ability to adapt
David Kelly

David Kelly

Paddy 'Rala' O'Reilly, Ireland's philosopher in chief and occasional baggage haulier, likes to post the occasional inspiring message to his charges.

"Don't wait for your ship to come in -- swim out to it," is one example and, such was the spring in the Irish squad's step yesterday, a clutch of them disported themselves to the Forty Foot as if to embody the adage.

Contrary to the perception of an Ireland struggling to keep their heads above water, Luke Fitzgerald boldly proclaimed yesterday that his team are "on the cusp" as they build up to a defining fortnight featuring their closing Six Nations appointments with Wales and England.

"Obviously, we'd like to be three from three in results so we're behind where we wanted to be," admitted the full-back after returning from the popular Sandycove retreat, where a handful of players took the plunge in glorious sunshine.

"But in terms of playing, we're in a good position. We're on the cusp. We've talked about getting control of the penalty count and that's something we can definitely improve.

"In terms of attack, we look very, very dangerous. We've scored a lot of tries in the competition and we'll continue to do that.

"There's areas we're looking to be a little more accurate, maybe holding on to the ball for longer, creating a little more pressure on teams like France did to us in Croke Park.

"We've talked about that last week, maybe holding on to the ball more and being more patient. But we look very dangerous in attack and defensively, we just need to work on the small things.

"We're on the cusp. We're in a good position. We've two more games to go, a big one this weekend.

"Hopefully, we can put ourselves in a good position going to the last weekend."

It is clear that Ireland are seeking to condemn the dreaded tedium of indiscipline to the memory bank, but only positive action can remove the negative vibes surrounding the team's inconsistent displays.

Forwards coach Gert Smal was keen to repudiate accusations that his side have become stuck in a time warp since registering their 2009 Grand Slam success.

"We're not satisfied about the breakdown," he admitted, after earlier conceding similar ongoing displeasure with the line-out.

"But there is a perception that since they've changed laws, we haven't progressed on that.

"That's not the case at all. We have changed the way to suit our team. At the breakdown, we don't want to change much of what we're doing. The players have faith in our defensive system and we haven't conceded many tries.


"It's about speaking to the players consistently and trying to be a little more accurate, and when the ref speaks to you, just listen. We're constantly looking to improve, individually and as a team."

One hopes the team's honesty remains a force for the better.

Typically, Fitzgerald highlighted his difficulties under his high ball as the main deficiency in his three outings to date.

"I'm happy with my form. I feel like I'm getting more comfortable in the position, the more time I get," he said.

"Positioning has never been an issue for me. There's probably been a few occasions when accuracy in the air needs to be improved.

"There's been one or two per game I should have been getting. So that's an area I've been focusing on myself, putting in time to get better at. It's not an area that's weak in my game.

"In certain occasions, when the ball has been coming short, there have been guys competing and I haven't been able to get as high as I've wanted.

"So that's one area that needs to be improved. And hopefully I can get more touches in attack."

Irish Independent

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