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England 57 Ireland 15
A heavy beating was always conceivable as there were several mitigating factors pointing towards it. But even so, this was ominous and, potentially, costly both physically and psychologically for Ireland.
Conor Murray went off in the first half, as he did in the final warm-up game here four years ago, although he returned briefly before being replaced permanently at half time. Afterwards Joe Schmidt confirmed that Murray had passed his HIA but had been taken off anyway.
More worrying still was the sight of Cian Healy lying flat out for some time and seemingly in acute pain before at least managing to limp off gingerly without recourse to a mobile stretcher at the end of the first half. But after he watched the second half with ice over his right ankle, Schmidt said an x-ray revealed no damage and the hope is that his sprained ankle will not keep him out of the World Cup.
But then there’s the mental damage. This eight tries to two thrashing set all sorts of unwelcome landmarks. This 135th meeting between the two countries provided a record winning margin in the fixture, eclipsing the 46-6 English win at Lansdowne Road in 1997. It was also the most points Ireland have ever conceded against England, usurping the 50-18 defeat here in 2000. Needless to say, it was also the biggest loss in 69 matches Joe Schmidt, eclipsing the nadir of the 43-20 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Argentina four years ago.
“That wasn’t the standards we set for ourselves. Quite frankly it was hard to describe without using a lot of profanity,” admitted Rory Best on pitchside.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be. I suppose the only positive is that it’s the middle of August and not the middle of September, but that was nowhere near where we need to be.”
Admitting the video will make for painful viewing, the Irish captain also accepted that the forwards didn’t lay a sufficient platform for the backs, and he assuredly had the particularly cataclysmic Irish lineout vividly in mind.
In all Ireland lost six lineouts, which actually was effectively seven, and it was as bad under the skipper’s watch as it was when Sean Cronin, even with the help of Devin Toner, came on, directly coughing up two of England’s eight tries.
Ireland began reasonably well, and led after 26 minutes, before they began to wilt in the sweltering heat. Fatigue was clearly a factor but their defence was particularly porous, missing an astonishing 34 tackles. In uncomfortable echoes of last February’s meeting, England also had much the better of the collisions.
The midfield, especially Bundee Aki, were culpable for biting in as the wide defence was frequently outflanked, as the George Ford-Owen Farrell combination pulled the strings, Manu Tuilagi caused havoc whether carrying or acting as a decoy.
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