Sport Rugby

Friday 23 February 2018

What Ireland need ...

Tomas O'Leary goes into today's clash desperately searching for the form that saw Declan Kidney install him as first-choice scrum-half when he took over as Ireland coach.

A class operator, as he showed in 2009 and 2010, defence remains a core strength of his game, but Ireland need O'Leary to produce swift and accurate passes, effective box-kicks and surging runs.

Injuries have hindered him this year, but the clock is ticking and alternatives are lining up.

Profitable returns

Persistent injuries have meant that Stephen Ferris' back-row excellence always comes with a question mark attached and his selection on the bench today was something of an unexpected boon.

With Jerry Flannery gradually working his way back, 20 minutes of treatment-free impact from Ferris would be an excellent development as well as Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy making injury-free comebacks.

A flanking manoeuvre

David Wallace's injury has emphasised the cover issue at open-side flanker. Sean O'Brien can play there if required, but is at his best on the blindside.

It is a big ask for Shane Jennings to come back for his first match since breaking his arm in May and produce a stand-out performance, but, given his strength of character and quality, you wouldn't bet against it.

That could have the double impact of calming management nerves and getting Jennings on the plane.

A win

Defeat does not spell disaster but three in a row would see the pressure ratchet up and bring the dreaded 'C' word (that's confidence) back into the public domain. Motivation enough to spur Ireland to victory.

Irish Independent

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