Tuesday 12 December 2017

Healy's appearance was most significant but Ireland will be unhappy with their display

'If we can get him (Healy) up to speed in the coming games and unleash O’Brien, Henderson and Healy on teams in the latter rounds, we can really go places'
'If we can get him (Healy) up to speed in the coming games and unleash O’Brien, Henderson and Healy on teams in the latter rounds, we can really go places'

Conor O'Shea

The questions that need to be answered will have to wait for another day, Ireland had a job to do against Canada - a job that was 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'.

We saw from England on the opening night that first-up games can be nervy, tense affairs, especially when the expectation you carry is so huge. Ireland started the same way as England, with Sean O'Brien dropping a simple pass and Johnny Sexton firing a ball into space but actually into touch. They were execution errors, ones we need to eradicate if we are to be serious contenders. Truth be told, Ireland will be unhappy with their overall performance, with the ball-retention not being of the standard they will expect and need when the real tests come.

With a 50kg advantage up front Ireland were always going to be dominant at scrum and maul, and it was going to give us easy field position and points. It was also always going to sap the energy from a game Canadian team. Twenty minutes in and Canada were already soaking, making too many tackles and with Ireland upping the tempo by taking a quick penalty, they got Jamie Cudmore sin-binned. Suddenly it was Canada without their spiritual leader. Ireland, through O'Brien, profited off the back of the maul and, minutes later, Iain Henderson was powering over. With the try-scoring bonus point in the bag on 36 minutes, the big question facing Ireland at half-time was by how many points we would win by, and would we pick up any injuries.

Despite the ease of the win there were still some really interesting areas and one notable appearance. The performance of Iain Henderson alongside Paul O'Connell shows Ireland's hand and the Ulsterman brings added balance to Joe Schmidt's game. The other - and to me the most significant moment of the match - was the appearance of Cian Healy. If we can get him up to speed in the coming games and unleash O'Brien, Henderson and Healy on teams in the latter rounds, we can really go places.

The other areas that Joe Schmidt will be happy with will be the intensity of our defence and scramble defence when close to our line at the end of the first and start of the second half. He will also have been delighted with how Sexton controlled the game before he went off. The game became frantic at times, which is only natural when one team is so much better than the other but Sexton tried to put his foot on the ball, in football parlance, sticking the ball in behind Canada and putting an element of control and structure on the performance.

It isn't a massive surprise that Canada were game at the start of both halves when they had an element of freshness in their legs, but Ireland's power was always going to make the end of each half too much to take. There are times in a match as a team that you can have too much ball and there is too much space, which leads to mistakes. Is it acceptable? No. Is it understandable? Yes.

The atmosphere in Cardiff was spectacular and you know that as this tournament grows our incredible group of supporters will grow with it. These next few weeks will be special and could lead to a re-enactment of the spirit of Euro '88 or Italia '90. Let's hope our best players stay fit and are ready to fire when this tournament really takes off. Canada was just a starter, the main courses are yet to come.

This tournament started on Friday night with a spectacular opening ceremony, reminding you how far the game has come to since the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987. We saw the first mini-shock of the competition when Georgia, coached by Michael Bradley, overcame Tonga and finally we saw Ireland. We can now look forward to Romania in a week's time, tweaking the line-up to keep people fresh but also giving the players the appropriate game time certain men will need to be battle-hardened for the matches ahead.

Sunday Indo Sport

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