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O'Mahony's red mist, O'Connell's to-do list and is it time to think about life after Johnny Sexton?


Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is attended to by team physio Keith Fox, left, and team doctor Dr Ciaran Cosgrave

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is attended to by team physio Keith Fox, left, and team doctor Dr Ciaran Cosgrave

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is attended to by team physio Keith Fox, left, and team doctor Dr Ciaran Cosgrave

Five talking points from Ireland's Six Nations defeat against Wales.

O'Mahony's red mist

There’s aggression and then there is controlled aggression. And Ireland went beyond the limits here. Peter O’Mahony could have no complaints about his red card and there was too many penalties against Ireland, even if English referee Wayne Barnes was his usual picky self.

However, there was no attempt to play on the sympathy of the ref or to force him to give a decision or two in Ireland's favour. While the heart was there, the cool head that was needed at times went missing.

Life without Sexton?

Sooner, rather than later, Ireland are going to have to face up to rugby life without Johnny Sexton. One of Ireland’s greatest ever players, Sexton made mistakes against Wales, failing to find touch on a couple of crucial occasions. And yet again in a Test match, Sexton’s bravery saw him go off injured.

As the skipper, Sexton won’t be dropped. And the job of every Irish coach is to win Six Nations matches. But against Italy on February 27, surely it is time to start one of Ross Byrne, Jack Carty or Billy Burns, the last minute here notwithstanding, in the pivotal position. We need to see what the future will be.

Plenty for Paul O'Connell to do

Paul O’Connell still has lots of work to do on a misfiring Irish lineout. Yes, without both James Ryan and Peter O’Mahony, life was not going to be easy in the line-out for Ireland in Cardiff.

But while we pilfered Wales’ lineout during the match, Ireland did not do the basics of holding onto their own possession. One great attacking opportunity was lost in the first half because of a poor throw. There is much work to be done this week before a very strong French set-piece heads for Dublin next Sunday.

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Back problems

Yes, it is hard when the other team have an extra man, but none of Ireland’s strike backs managed to hurt Wales in this one. Coach Andy Farrell has lots of work to do with his pack, but he has choices to make among the backs as well. Jordan Larmour and Bundee Aki will be wondering about getting the start against France.

James Lowe and Keith Earls on the wings were found wanting at times and never broke the Welsh defensive line. They will be worried men over the next few days.

Will we have anyone left standing for France next Sunday? Peter O’Mahony may well be suspended and James Ryan, Johnny Sexton and Caelan Doris will have to pass concussion protocols to get permission to play.

That was a hugely physical match in Cardiff. Bodies will be hurting after playing a man short for almost the whole match. Andy Farrell may have to add to his group in camp as Ireland gear up for their first home game of the Six Nations.

Plenty of effort and heart

It was a tremendous effort by Ireland to play for 70 minutes with just 14 men, and with the pack talisman, James Ryan, going off in the first half too. Yet Ireland only lost by five points.

Passion and effort goes with playing for Ireland, but the team went beyond that here. It was a huge performance by Ireland in straightened circumstances.

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