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Saturday 25 November 2017

Ireland to maintain plotted course - Healy

David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland will resist calls to implement some clarity in terms of their game plan ahead of Saturday's Six Nations showdown with England.

Puncturing the tyres of the chariot appears to be of more substantive importance to steering the future course of an Irish team which appeared shockingly rudderless at times against Wales in Cardiff last Saturday.

So, supporters cannot expect to see any radical alteration in selection policy or tactical approach -- in as much as one can discern a tactical approach, given the wide vacillation in Ireland's play from one match to the next.

"The approach is going to be to pick the best team that we think is suitable to beat England and to continue on the game we are playing," asserted team manager Paul McNaughton yesterday.

"The coaches will look at all of those areas. We feel that we are still creating chances, which is good. We are not taking all of them, which is bad. They feel the scrum and line-out are going well.


"Our kicking game was poor, especially the ping pong between their back three and our back three. We will be selecting the side, as we have for every match this season, on the basis of what's the best side to beat the next opposition.

"We won't be developing, we won't be rotating; it's just picking a team most suited to beating England."

For his part, prop Cian Healy insisted that there had been no discernible difference in approach to last week's disappointing defeat to the Welsh, a stance which would seem to be at variance to both the visual and statistical evidence.

"I'm not too sure really," he said when asked would there be a change in approach for this weekend. "We're sticking to the same brand that we've been going with. There's not going to be anything majorly different.

"It's the type of rugby we're trying to play. We've said all along that's what we're sticking to. We're going to try to play it. There's a bit of criticism over that, but there's no point in starting to change it now. We're starting to play it properly now and play good rugby.

"I think there was a lot of good parts last weekend, we put together good line-outs and scrums and stuff and the backs got to play off it as well. We were looking for a platform off our set-piece and that came out well.

"There were one or two situations where it broke down, ball off the top or whatever. Overall, I was pretty happy with what we did."

Certainly the arrival of white-shirted foes and their thousands of supporters demanding a Grand Slam for the first time in eight years, may itself determine that Ireland's response should be more coherent than of late.

"You hear a lot from your friends and stuff, saying: 'You have to beat the old enemy', and from supporters, too," admitted Healy, who sat out training along with David Wallace, but will be named in the team later today.

"But at the end of the day, it's a big game. You don't really feel a lot more pressure, but in the build-up you do notice a bit more atmosphere.

"The atmosphere around Dublin has been incredible for all of the games we've been here, so I can just imagine it being a pretty big occasion anyway.

"You'd have to ask them if they're under pressure," he added, when asked about England's mentality going into the game. "This is us focusing on ourselves and what we can do. I don't know what sort of pressure they'll be under or how they're gonna go about the game.

"I think we're capable of beating any team in the world to be honest. I wouldn't judge our season by any table yet.

"England are doing well in the championship and credit to them they've played some great ball. We've been unfortunate in some of our games not to be in the same position now."

While forwards coach Gert Smal basks in a flawless Irish set-piece following last week's game, an area which would have won most teams a Test match, his opinions on the current English side are interesting.

"I think through the past three years they've shown glimpses," Smal said. "What happened over the past year is that they've got everything together with how they want to play.

"They have settled down now with their combinations and they have a good brand that they play. The pack is obviously a big part of the attack and they have talented backs, a lot of big boys who can get good forward momentum. The rest just runs off that."

Would that the South African could speak with similar conviction about his own charges. Perhaps the renewal of an age-old rivalry can spark that elusive sense of certainty.

Meanwhile, Geordan Murphy believes referees must be reprimanded if they make decisions that cost teams games at international level.

As the fallout continued from Jonathan Kaplan's decision to allow Wales' controversial try against Ireland stand, the injured Murphy weighed into the debate, declaring: "It's pretty harsh really.

"The frustrating thing from a playing point of view is that there doesn't seem to be any repercussions for referees when they have bad games.

"Players have the possibility of being dropped, replaced and not used again. Referees don't seem to really face any repercussions when they make bad decisions or perform poorly.

"There should be some sort of reprimand. Maybe not refereeing at the same level and having to work your way back up to doing international fixtures is the answer."

Murphy could be back in action before the end of the season. The Naas native has an appointment with his surgeon next month to remove pins from the ankle he injured in a club match in January and is hopeful of a return in May.

Irish Independent

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