Saturday 21 April 2018

WATCH - Luke Fitzgerald shows how Michael Cheika deployed the same move that helped Leinster dismantle Munster in 2009

Rocky Elsom sprints away from the Munster defence during the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park
Rocky Elsom sprints away from the Munster defence during the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park

Luke Fitzgerald

Here are the main talking points from Episode Two of The Left Wing following Ireland's victory at the Aviva on Saturday.

Joe's focus on discipline pays off

Ireland's discipline was crucial over the course of November and they finished by conceding only three penalties for the game against Australia.

It is something that Joe Schmidt always focuses on and it's a no-brainer really.

You can give teams easy 'ins' into the game if you concede penalties - you allow them to build momentum against you, and then different things like yellow cards can change the flow of a game. It's a huge part of why Ireland have been consistently good.

It's something that is ingrained in me from training and playing under Joe and a really strong part of this Irish team.

It was a very difficult build-up for Ireland: Sean O'Brien picked up an injury on the eve of the game having trained with the team all week. Then they lost three backs by half-time. They coped superbly, given how many guys were playing out of position.

The stand-out was Kieran Marmion, a scrum-half on the wing. He had some great interventions for a player with no experience of the position, the highlight being the pressure he put on No 8 David Pocock to prevent a try after a lovely bit of Australian play.

Keith Earls and Kieran Marmion of Ireland celebrate with team mates after the Autumn International match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Cheika dusts down familiar move

Australia's first try brought back some memories for me as Michael Cheika dusted off a familiar old move.

Leinster fans might have had flash-backs when Michael Hooper reprised the Rocky Elsom move that cut the Munster defensive line open at a crucial moment in our win at Croke Park in the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final.

It's an unusual play: most teams in the world, when they're switching two players in midfield, will use the centres and position them outside the No 10, but Cheika places his runners inside Bernard Foley.

Dane Haylett-Petty stands in front of Hooper and they look to isolate Ireland's second defender, Rory Best. What makes it really difficult for the captain is he sees Haylett-Petty tailing off to the inside and it's hard to pick up the flanker coming from his blindside.

It had Cheika's influence all across it: all the Australian players are in superb positions to capitalise if Hooper makes the break, they've worked hard on their detail and know the move inside out.

They can take advantage, they're one step ahead of Ireland's defenders and ready to take advantage.

So, when Keith Earls makes a great tackle on Israel Folau, Haylett-Petty gets his reward and scores an important try.


Bench impact turns the tide

Like many people in the stadium, I feared for Ireland when Bernard Foley put Australia four points ahead, but the bench played its part.

Simon Zebo made a fantastic tackle on Michael Hooper and that wrested the momentum back into the home side's favour.

Australia had to put the ball out and that brought about a concerted period of Irish pressure around two lineouts.

The bench played a big part in that, Cian Healy was involved in two mauls, hit four rucks and had two carries; Peter O'Mahony made two huge carries, Ultan Dillane fired Tadhg Furlong through a hole and that gave Ireland the field-position from which they scored the winning try.

The finishing play is excellent execution, with Keith Earls' width crucial. He hugs the touchline and gives Zebo the space to aim for. It's a small thing, but it makes other people's jobs easier and life difficult for the Australian defenders.

Simon Zebo is tackled by Australia’s Will Genia during Ireland’s victory. Photo: Sportsfile

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