| 6.2°C Dublin


Monday breakdown: Ireland's electric back-three gel well as attack clicks into gear

Cian Tracey


 

Close

Ireland's Jordan Larmour (2nd right) celebrates after scoring his side's first try. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Ireland's Jordan Larmour (2nd right) celebrates after scoring his side's first try. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Ireland's Jordan Larmour (2nd right) celebrates after scoring his side's first try. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

If the last two weeks have taught us anything, particularly the win over Wales, it is that small tweaks and picking form players in an already established game-plan, can make a big difference.

At times on Saturday, it was like watching the Ireland of 2018, while in other lesser moments, it was more like last year's version.

There hasn't been a radical overhaul in the approach under Andy Farrell, but rather subtle nuances, and a back-three who are thriving in the freedom with which they have been given within the new system.

Barring a couple of injuries, Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale wouldn't have fancied their chances of being selected in the same team under the previous regime.

Despite the fact that Keith Earls had recovered from injury, Farrell showed faith in the same trio and they rewarded their head coach in spades.

Buzzing

As a combination, they are buzzing off each other's infectious energy, which is spreading right throughout the rest of the team.

According to the official Six Nations stats, only two players on the pitch broke the 100-metre mark, and it will come as no surprise that it was Larmour (103) and Stockdale (115), while Conway (72) wasn't too far behind. Two of Ireland's four tries came from the back-three as they asked questions of the Welsh defence all afternoon.

Larmour had one of his most assured performances in the back-field and has now really made the 15 jersey his own.

It has been quite some time since Ireland have possessed such a devastating counter-attacking threat from full-back, and regardless of what the system is, if you have a player of Larmour's class willing to constantly run the ball, holes will invariably appear in the defence.

Under Stuart Lancaster, Larmour has really been pushed to be more of a playmaker for Leinster and we have seen plenty of signs of that as the 22-year-old regularly steps in as first-receiver.

He is now beginning to do the same with Ireland, which really bodes well considering he is still learning the ropes.

There was some criticism aimed at Larmour for not linking the play enough against Scotland, but he had clearly worked hard on that last week because he was much more effective in bringing others into play last weekend - as we have highlighted in how he put Conway over for his try.

"He's learning the whole time, Jordan," Farrell said.

"I thought his ability to read the game was way better this week, I'm very keen to keep developing his decision-making as far as the back-play is concerned, but at the same time making sure I don't dampen anything he's about because his X-factor is special. (It's) Super exciting."

Conway may not grab as many headlines as Larmour, but the Munster man is hugely reliable and is now one of the most consistent performers in the Ireland squad.

The Munster man has had to bide his time on the international stage and he is going a long way to making up for lost time.

Conway does the basics incredibly well, which often helps to allow Larmour do what he does best. Conor Murray had an excellent game and his box-kicking was, by and large, on the money - no thanks to Conway's relentless chasing.

Ireland have never lost a game in which Conway has started. He has a knack of making others look good while also continuing to prove that he is a deadly finisher.

Although Stockdale was mostly starved of possession, he still managed to make his presence felt. He will, however, feel he can do more to get himself involved in the play.

Earls looked very sharp on his return, albeit in the centre, and this column still believes that Ireland are a better team with a fit and firing Earls on the wing.

The Limerick native faces a tough task to get back into the side for the trip to Twickenham, yet that healthy competition is exactly what Farrell wants.

Larmour, Conway and Stockdale look to be forming an exciting partnership, which has been one of the most pleasing aspects of what has been a positive start to this new era.

The trio need time to develop that understanding and Larmour is certainly excited about their potential.

"We've got a little bit of a new system so it is always going to take a bit of time to get used to it," he admitted.

"It's coming together. In training it is looking a lot better and it was a bit better out there as well so it's definitely something we can keep working on and keep growing.

"It's just playing heads-up rugby, playing where the space is.

"I think it's good, you always need a few games to try and build relationships, see how the other guy likes to work and you build them through training.

"As a back-three, we're happy with how it's going, but there's still a few things we can tweak to make it better."

Mike Catt will have been hugely pleased by what he saw from Ireland's attack against Wales. It wasn't perfect, but there is no doubt that it improved from the previous week.

The early progress has been hugely encouraging and while the attack will need to go up another level in Twickenham in a fortnight, if Larmour, Conway and Stockdale can continue to gel, Ireland will be in a good place.

Irish Independent