'Ireland attack comes up short' - Five things we learned from Ireland's 21-10 defeat to England
England remain on course for the Grand Slam after a 21-10 victory over Ireland at Twickenham. Here are five things we gleaned from an absorbing encounter.
1 - Surgery needed on Ireland’s attack
For all that Ireland will complain about the officials who controversially denied Josh van der Flier what looked like a perfectly good try, they must look closer to home for the reason they only scored 10 points at Twickenham.
The visiting side’s accuracy in the opposition ’22 has been poor all Championship and they continued to pass up opportunities in game three as they went four games without a win for the first time in Joe Schmidt’s era.
Whether it was poor handling, miscommunication or basic set-piece execution, the green machine looked less than well-oiled, particularly in the first-half when chances to relieve the English pressure were missed.
2 - The kids are alright
The positive Schmidt will take home from London will be the performances of the three newcomers and it may persuade him to push the boat out when it comes to his last two selections of the now-gone Six Nations.
Stuart McCloskey was outstanding on both sides of the ball, dominating collisions and forcing turnovers with choke tackles while his tackle on Dylan Hartley stopped a certain try with the help of Conor Murray.
Josh van der Flier spent the entire first-half tackling and rucking, but got his hands on the ball after the break and should have had a try to cap a solid debut, while Ultan Dillane had an outstanding cameo off the bench and must have done enough to earn a start against Italy.
3 - The experienced campaigners struggled
Captain Rory Best had three lineouts picked off at crucial stages, while Jamie Heaslip was completely outplayed by his opposite number Billy Vunipola.
Johnny Sexton gave a brave display, hurling himself into the contact in a performance that took a huge physical toll but some of his kicking from hand was poor and as the main orchestrator of the attacking plan he must shoulder responsibility for Ireland’s struggling attack.
Paul O’Connell might be gone, but Ireland’s had more caps between them than England but didn’t get that experience across.
4 - Ireland must be more streetwise
The performance of the officials will come under scrutiny, but the reality for Ireland is that they’ve allowed themselves to be bullied for a second successive game.
International rugby is no place for the faint-hearted and the now-dethroned Six Nations champions cannot keep blaming the referee for their woes.
It is time that Ireland became the enforcers in these Test matches and stopped getting pushed around.
5 - England are on the way back
Eddie Jones might not be the most likeable character, but the Australian has this team on the right track after their World Cup disaster.
In Billy Vunipola, they have as destructive a ball-carrier as there is in international rugby, while Maro Itoje looks an outstanding prospect.
Their backline might not be perfect, but when Manu Tuilagi returns they will have an array of attacking weapons.
Beat Wales and they’ll have one hand on the title.