Thursday 22 March 2018

Easterby calls on Ireland to take their chances

Easterby: 'We’re disappointed with some of the opportunities that we created and didn’t quite make the most of against France'
Easterby: 'We’re disappointed with some of the opportunities that we created and didn’t quite make the most of against France'
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Nobody in camp Ireland is panicking over a return of two tries in the two games so far in this year's Six Nations, and if that lack of stress transfers to the pitch then fans might see a little bit more from their side this weekend.

According to the official statistics, Joe Schmidt's side failed to make a single line-break in their win over France, while they off-loaded the ball just twice.

Yet, had Johnny Sexton held on to the ball instead of hammering it at Jared Payne while Pascal Pape watched on from the sin-bin, the numbers might look a little better for the champions, who ended up needing a heroic defensive effort to secure the win.

The message this week is about being more clinical. Opportunity seldom knocks in the highly-charged land of monstrous men that Test rugby has become, so you'd better answer when it does.

"We're disappointed with some of the opportunities that we created and didn't quite make the most of against France," forwards coach Simon Easterby conceded.

"That could be the difference between the French having the ascendancy in the last 10 minutes and us being 12-15 points ahead. That's where we need to get to if we're going to beat these teams well. We've got to make sure that we take those chances at lineout, maul-time, phases. If we're creating them, then we've got to make sure we make the most of them because they'll be few and far between.

"The weekend's going to be an arm-wrestle at times and we need to make sure we stay in it and the rest of the time we need to make sure we play smart and hold our discipline."

That Ireland are in a place where "beating these teams well" is the aim shows how far they have come under Schmidt, but there is a frustration among the squad that things haven't been coming off.

To date, injured Eoin Reddan has been looking on from a distance, watching Ireland set up plays before someone like Mathieu Bastareaud gets in the way and it all goes to pot.

"I think things are always close to coming off," he explained. "At this level it's always seconds or even fractions of seconds.

"We're able to identify when those things haven't happened, why they haven't happened.


"That's why hopefully you get an improvement, why you realise as the weeks go just how close to perfection you've got to be to achieve those things.

"That's what we'll be looking at this week again, trying to get our stuff right this week and completing those phases."

Now recovered from his hamstring injury, Reddan is expected to return to the Ireland bench in one of the few changes that Schmidt is likely to make.

It seems certain that Jordi Murphy will come in for the vastly experienced Jamie Heaslip, and Easterby has confidence the Leinster back-row can deliver after doing a fine job against Italy in Rome.

"I've been really happy with Jordi. He goes about his business, he's a tough bugger and he just gets on with things. He's robust, he carries well," he said.

Irish Independent

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