Saturday 16 December 2017

Malone demanding improvements from young guns for physical Italian lesson

Malone: ‘Our lineout stats were poor’. Photo: Sportsfile
Malone: ‘Our lineout stats were poor’. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

There was a lot to admire in the manner in which Ireland dug in to snatch victory in Scotland last week but amongst the players and the coaches, there is a stark realisation that major improvements are needed if they're going to challenge for the Six Nations title.

That said, for a lot of the players it was their first taste of international rugby and they will be all the better for having come through that scrap.

Confidence levels are high amongst the squad as they look to maintain their unbeaten start when they take on an Italian side who came unstuck against Wales last week.

The U-20s age-grade is a steep learning curve and behind the scenes this week, the coaches haven't been shy in letting players know what is expected of them.

A lot of talk has been centred around Ireland's pack and although they aren't as big as they were last year, forwards coach Peter Malone isn't looking to use that as an excuse.

Nevertheless, Ireland struggled up front against Scotland and Malone insisted his players must learn to adapt to the situation in the heat of the moment.

"We said we'd do a lot of things which we didn't do," Malone lamented.

"We targeted the Scottish breakdown for example and we didn't contest it as much as we felt we should have. We spoke about a few things around the lineout about targeting certain areas.

"When you put your plan down and these are the key areas to address and focus on and you don't do it, that's not good enough. They've got to learn that.

"We've looked at Italy. They will be tough and physical. They'll maul and they'll kick early. We've got to match their physicality.

"We'd be disappointed with both aspects of the set-piece, scrum and lineout. Our lineout stats were very poor for what we felt was a strong lineout. For me, that was the most disappointing.

"The normality for an Irish pack is that you've got to be lower and more cohesive and better organised because we're never, or rarely ever, going to be bigger than them. Even last year we weren't much bigger than our opposition.

"Hopefully through the Six Nations we learn that. We'll know a lot more tonight because the Italians didn't take a ball out of their scrum against Wales last Friday. Not one. We'll definitely know a lot more. I'd be hoping we'll be a lot more cohesive."

For all the improvements that are being demanded of Ireland this evening, they come into the game with their Grand Slam hopes still intact, and that isn't likely to change when they leave Italy tomorrow morning.

Verdict: Ireland

Italy U-20 - M Cioffi; A Bronzini, L Vaccari, M Zanon, D Schiabel; A Rizzi, C Trussardi; D Rimpelli, M Ceciliani, M Riccioni; G Baldino, G Venditti; J Bianchi, L Masselli, G Licata. Reps: A Rollero, D Fischetti, G Zilocchi, E Iachizzi, N Casolari, E Fusco, M Biondelli, R Dal Zilio.

Ireland U-20 - C Hogan; J Larmour, G Mullin, C Frawley, C Nash; J McPhillips, J Stewart; J Conway, T McElroy, C Connolly; F Wycherley, O Dowling; C Gallagher, P Boyle, C Doris. Reps: A Moloney, R Mulvihill, M Burke, R Regan, G Coombes, J Lyons, C Fitzgerald, T O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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