Sunday 21 January 2018

'Predictable attack, lineout malfunctions and English weak spot' - 5 things we learned from Twickenham

England full-back Mike Brown celebrates scoring his second-half try alongside team-mate Mike Nowell (left), but Brown’s subsequent use of the boot which saw Conor Murray go off injured was the subject of much debate. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
England full-back Mike Brown celebrates scoring his second-half try alongside team-mate Mike Nowell (left), but Brown’s subsequent use of the boot which saw Conor Murray go off injured was the subject of much debate. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Youngsters offer hope but Ireland’s errors and their faltering lineout prove costly

1 Predicable attack remains a major concern

Since Joe Schmidt arrived on these shores, his mantra has always been based around his teams having a high level of ‘accuracy’ but just like it did in Paris and at times against Wales, Ireland fell way short of the standards that the Kiwi demands.

Far too often simple passes failed to go to hand while Ireland were often guilty of trying to run the ball from the wrong areas of the field.

Their five line breaks were a marked improvement on the zero against France and three against Wales but they never really took advantage.

Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw both made searing breaks but the support simply wasn’t with them.

England finished the game with 14 men and with Ireland handed an ideal attacking platform off clean ball from the scrum, they were unable to convert it to points.

2 Debutants give glimpse of a brighter future

Amidst the doom and gloom of a fourth game without a win, there were plenty of positives from the three players who made their international bows.

Stuart McCloskey grew into the game and had a huge few minutes shortly after the restart before oddly being replaced.

The Bangor Bulldozer’s try-saving tackle on Dylan Hartley was crucial while his partnership with Henshaw is something to build on.

Josh van der Flier topped the tackle count (17) and he didn’t look out of place in Test rugby. He gave away one silly penalty but he will undoubtedly be a regular in the starting XV in years to come.

Ultan Dillane brought a huge amount of aggression and intensity in his barnstorming 15-minute cameo from the bench.

His link-up play with Van der Flier was stunning. Another who will learn from the experience.

3 Ireland fail to target England’s weak spot

Eddie Jones made no secret of England’s intentions to target Johnny Sexton and although the out-half coped well with everything that was thrown at him, Ireland will be wondering why they didn’t do the same to his opposite number.

In contrast to Sexton, George Ford was given an armchair ride throughout with Ireland’s stifled attack rarely running at him.

Ford was anonymous for large

periods and given that he’s had a difficult season to date, Schmidt will be fuming that his side couldn’t take advantage.

As it is, the smug Jones got one over on Schmidt in this department.

4  Lineout malfunctions prove very costly

It wasn’t so much the three lineouts that Ireland lost but it was the position in which they were in when the set-piece capitulated.

Whether it was down to Rory Best’s wayward darts or Devin Toner’s poor call is another matter but the fact remains that Ireland allowed England off the hook far too easily.

Ireland lost four of their own lineouts against Wales and another two against France.

Granted Paul O’Connell’s absence will be greatly missed but they

cannot afford to cough up possession so cheaply if they are to have any

hope of winning in places like


5  Officials’ duty of care  again questioned

First things first, England were thoroughly deserving winners but the performance of the officials again posed more questions.

Mike Brown’s use of the boot at a ruck may or may not have intentionally caught Conor Murray in the eye but there was no question that it was reckless in the extreme.

As much as there should be a duty of care on Brown’s part with Murray’s head lying there in the open, referee Romain Poite and his TMO watched several replays but didn’t even deem it worthy of a penalty – instead if was Danny Care who was pinged.

The marginal calls favoured England but Ireland must quickly learn to adapt and get on the right side of the ref or this will become a regular theme.

Ref Link

“The second one was better yeah, keep working hard please.”

Romain Poite warns the English front-row to keep their bind but it falls on

deaf ears as Dan Cole concedes the penalty.

“You’re right, yes. I have seen a neck roll. Just a penalty against 12 white. It’s reckless and clear and obvious.”

The TMO does well to spot Owen Farrell neck-rolling Keith Earls in the tackle and Poite concurs.

“I am sorry, I cannot hear clearly.”

Poite has trouble hearing both of his assistant referees which isn’t really much use to anyone, especially as one of them (Nigel Owens) has been trying to get his attention for several phases of play.

“Okay, I’ve seen two things. Shoulder and high. It’s dangerous and it’s a yellow card.”

Poite rightly sends James Haskell to the sin bin for a cheap, late shot on Conor Murray.

“Can we look at the retaliation? No arms straight into his back.”

Captain Best justifiably questions Dan Cole’s retaliation on Devin Toner after he concedes a penalty but frustratingly Poite doesn’t look at it again and it goes unpunished.

“Can you check the number of the player, I think it is 21.”

Poite has no idea which player he is supposed to send to the sin bin despite looking at a replay on the big screen while Mike Brown is lucky to remain on pitch for a kick into Conor Murray’s head in the same incident. Danny Care is eventually found to be the guilty party.


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