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Fixing scrum and handling errors - Andy Farrell's 'to-do' list ahead of Welsh test

Rúaidhrí O'Connor


Despite encouraging signs, Ireland need to up their levels and cut out errors against Wales, otherwise they will be staring defeat in the face

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Garry Ringrose attempts to get away from the Scotland defence before being forced off through injury. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Garry Ringrose attempts to get away from the Scotland defence before being forced off through injury. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Garry Ringrose attempts to get away from the Scotland defence before being forced off through injury. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

This morning, Ireland will gather in Abbotstown and go through the video of Saturday's Six Nations opener against Scotland. Joe Schmidt's reviews were infamous and famous in equal measure, his successor Andy Farrell has a balance to strike as he takes them through the areas that need improving.

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There was a lot to like about this performance, but their failure to establish a two-score lead meant the home team needed a mammoth defensive set and a superb CJ Stander poach penalty to see them home.

It was always unrealistic to expect the new regime would bring about wholesale change from the get-go, while the re-establishment of the players' confidence will also take time.

They showed character in this win, but they'll know they can't rely on their scramble defence and brilliant breakdown work when the bigger hitters come to town.

Scotland played well, but Wales and England are better teams and they'll make a lot more if they're allowed into Ireland's territory as frequently as Gregor Townsend's men, who came away with six points across six minutes in the red-zone.

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John Cooney rallies the troops during Saturday’s match against Scotland. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

John Cooney rallies the troops during Saturday’s match against Scotland. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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"I agree with that," Farrell said when it was put to him that they can't afford to give so much access into their own '22 again. "There were a couple of decisions that, rightly or wrongly, we need to be better at, at not letting them get some field position on us.

"Do you know what, they started really well, didn't they, Scotland. And that type of attacking when they were flowing - I thought we lost a few collisions early doors. But we hung on in there, which was fantastic. But they came at us again and again and again."

They probably can't afford to be hanging in against a Welsh side that put 40 points on Italy in Cardiff.

Reigning champions and World Cup semi-finalists under Warren Gatland, Wayne Pivac has taken over a strong side with plenty of belief and they'll fancy a win in Dublin.

On the basis of the opening day, they're right to come with that expectation, but Ireland will quickly identify a couple of areas where they can tighten up and improve.

Certainly, they were given a licence to attack and in Jordan Larmour they had the most dangerous player on the pitch.

At times, their accuracy let them down and a lot of the Scottish visits to their '22 came from an Irish mistake.

Part of the problem was that they were trying to play from too deep, but having called for an expansion of the game and less kicking it would be churlish to criticise them for that.

While their lineout functioned well, their scrum struggled in the post-Rory Best era.

With Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Furlong injury doubts going into the week ahead, they'll have limited on-pitch time to solve those issues.

Referee Mathieu Raynal's decision-making was erratic, but John Fogarty has an early test having taken over from Greg Feek.

If Ireland can solve the scrum and tighten up their handling, they'll be in decent nick because some of their attacking play looked very good.

Problem

Their problem was they couldn't find that second try that was needed to put the game beyond the Scots.

Whether it was Peter O'Mahony's silly penalty concession for crossing, Conor Murray being intercepted, Andrew Conway's offload not going to hand or Bundee Aki's knock-on, there were moments when they had Scotland where they wanted them and couldn't pull the trigger.

Farrell was happy with his side's ability to scramble, but he will want more from his frontline where Scotland dominated the collisions.

Their work at the breakdown was excellent, slowing the Scots right down and winning five turnovers. Caelan Doris set the tone early and his head injury was disruptive.

"We're progressing a little bit," Farrell said.

"It got a little bit untidy from time to time. Scotland had a lot to do with that, and so will Wales next week. These things take time but you still have to have the fundamentals of the game and I thought they got us over the line in the end.

"The game has always been about doing the right thing, it has always been about decision-making, see more spaces and playing the game how it should be played, what is in front of you, and decision-making is a part of that, and we need to get better at that."

Despite the concern over Doris and Dave Kilcoyne, who both left the field with suspected concussions, and Tadhg Furlong who was helped off after a 77-minute shift, there are no plans to delay tomorow's team announcement.

Garry Ringrose is expected to miss the game and his tournament could be in doubt after he damaged his hand, but Farrell at least has cover in that area.

He faces a choice between the direct force of Robbie Henshaw or the more nuanced presence of Will Addison.

Considering an out-of-position George North is a Welsh weak-link defensively, the Ulster man could be the man for the job.

Conor Murray is likely to retain the No 9 jersey despite a mixed display and, in fairness, he was far from alone in making mistakes.

Farrell will consider the injury report and then balance the need for continuity before informing the players of the team tomorrow morning.

"We'll see," he said. "There's a few boys that are going to be bruised and battered anyway so we'll see what happens.

"Continuity is one thing but at the heart of it really, the only thing that's right is what's right for the team and the opposition we're playing next week. So if we need to change we'll do that.

"Wales are obviously playing a wider, more expansive game, and we know how the Scarlets have played over the years, for them to be defending like they did as well today.

"They have got some great players and I am sure they will be cock-a-hoop coming into this week."

That is the challenge for an Irish side still finding their way.

Saturday was patchy, but if they can build on it and get another win this weekend, it will be a decent start.

There's work to be done before then.


Hand injury set to rule Ringrose out of Wales and England clashes

Garry Ringrose is facing a spell on the sidelines and is now in a race to make it back before the end of the Six Nations after suffering a suspected broken finger in yesterday's win over Scotland.

The centre appeared to pick up the injury late in the first half and was subsequently replaced at the interval.

Ringrose underwent a scan last night where the extent of the damage was revealed. The 25-year-old was pictured at full-time with his left thumb heavily strapped, which sparked concerns.

The Irish Independent understands that Ringrose will be out of action for at least four weeks, which would mean that he will miss Ireland's next two games against Wales and England. Ireland play Italy on March 7 before rounding off the tournament in Paris the following week. It remains to be seen what part, if any, Ringrose will play in either game.

Recovery times for such an injury can vary and while it is hoped that Ringrose is on the lower end of the scale, broken fingers can take up to two months to fully heal.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell revealed after the game that Ringrose would undergo a scan as he was left to count the cost of his first game in charge.

Caelan Doris and Dave Kilcoyne both suffered head injuries while Tadhg Furlong was helped from the field after both of his calves cramped up.

It's not what Farrell needs ahead of next Saturday's visit of Wales to Dublin.

Ringrose would be a massive loss as the door reopens for Robbie Henshaw to come back into the starting XV alongside Bundee Aki. Chris Farrell, Will Addison and Stuart McCloskey will also come into contention.

An injury update is expected from the IRFU today, before Ireland name their team to play Wales tomorrow.

Irish Independent