Rugby Analysis: England run rampant through Ireland’s defensive horror show

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THE GOOD NEWS for Ireland is that the lineout and defensive issues they suffered at Twickenham on Saturday are fixable.

Some of the mistakes Ireland delivered would be unacceptable to coaches at much lower levels of the game.

We should stress that England’s performance was outstanding in all aspects and underlined their World Cup credentials, but Joe Schmidt will be focusing on his own team’s shortcomings – with plenty of evidence to choose from.

Rugby manu-tuilagi-celebrates-his-try-with-tom-curry-and-joe-cokanasiga
Ireland had no answers for England’s attack.


Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The lineout was perhaps the worst it has ever been in Schmidt’s time in charge, meaning forwards coach Simon Easterby and his key leaders in the pack will be working hard to ensure it never malfunctions like that again.

Those set-piece issues were deeply damaging in Twickenham, while the defensive performance was a shitshow of epic proportions. 

Defence coach Andy Farrell has never seen his charges torn apart in this fashion, leaving him with lots of work to do before the World Cup.

It is true that most of Ireland’s starting team were playing their first game of the new season, but they defended like they hadn’t ever played together at times.

The fatigue of a heavy eight-day training camp in Portugal certainly played a part in some of Ireland’s shortcomings but to concede basic scores as easily as they did will have been unacceptable to Schmidt, who tore strips off his team in the changing room afterwards.

The defensive horror show will have been chief among a particularly uncompromising Schmidt analysis review. England scored their first try in the 13th minute and they barely took the foot off the gas thereafter, tearing Ireland apart for eight tries in total.

Here, we look at six of those English tries.

Joe Cokanasiga 

For England’s first score, Ireland’s issues start directly at the source of the ball around a scrum, as we can see below.

Having initially shifted to the openside after Ben Youngs’ feed into the scrum, scrum-half Conor Murray begins to move back into the blindside channel [white] as Billy Vunipola picks the ball up.

Rugby 1

At the same time, blindside wing Jordan Larmour advances up [red], clearly also worried about a blindside attack.

But Youngs [9] is already pushing off the scrum on the openside, while England’s blindside wing Jonny May [11] has tucked in behind out-half George Ford [10].

Ireland appear to be worried about Vunipola carrying down the blindside but there is also flanker Peter O’Mahony to come off that side of the scrum, as well as number eight CJ Stander if required.

Simply put, Ireland waste bodies in the blindside and already now they’re playing catch-up.

Without Murray on his inside shoulder, Ireland out-half Ross Byrne now has to worry about Youngs [indicated in white below], as openside flanker Josh van der Flier [yellow] can’t get off the side of the scrum quick enough to mark up on the England nine.

Rugby 2

Had Byrne had a viable defender on his inside here, getting across to Young, the Ireland out-half could have turned his attention outwards to England’s Owen Farrell [12] running a hard decoy line.

Instead, the chain effect sees Bundee Aki [blue above] having to respect Farrell’s run, in case Youngs slips him a short flat pass.

But Youngs goes out the back of Farrell to Ford with a screen pass and though Aki slides beyond Farrell, he’s now playing catch-up on Ford, rather than being able to drift out beyond him again.

The chain effect continues as Garry Ringrose now sits down on Manu Tuilagi [blue below], worrying about the short pass from Ford to the powerful outside centre.

Rugby 3

Instead, Ford uses a second screen pass [red] to find May out the back door and suddenly there is a real opportunity.

With Elliot Daly and Joe Cokanasiga outside May and half the width of the pitch for them to work with after England have held the interior defence so well, Ireland now have to scramble well to survive. Instead, they concede.

Jacob Stockdale is left in a tough position on the edge of the frontline defence. He could potentially sit off May here, backing down the pitch in a bid to allow those inside him to reconnect, before drifting off.

Instead, he hammers inwards on May, hoping to tackle him ball-and-all and stop the attack dead.

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We don’t know if this is what Ireland’s defensive system under Andy Farrell calls for but, based on previous evidence, that would seem to be the case. Ireland regularly try to shut the ball down when exposed on the edges, rather than playing it safe and sitting off.

May’s brilliant handling here sees him get the ball away just before Stockdale makes contact, allowing Daly to draw in Ireland fullback Rob Kearney, who also opts to hammer inwards [yellow below].

Rugby 5

We can see that Larmour [white above] is tracking across in the backfield, and blindside wings should always be working hard to provide a safety net in instances like this one.

However, Larmour has been delayed by initially advancing up in the blindside channel at the scrum and he can’t make up the distance as the powerful Cokanasiga gets the ball with huge space to run diagonally into.

Rugby 6

The England wing fends Larmour as he finishes a superbly-executed backline play.

From Ireland’s point of view, however, this kind of score is deeply disappointing to concede.

“Certainly, the first one was really an error on the inside and then we were playing catch up out wide,” said Schmidt. “It was really well worked by them but our defence coming out off the scrum wasn’t as good as it needs to be and once that happens you’re in a tough position.”

Elliot Daly

Being down to 14 men with Conor Murray on the ground injured certainly didn’t help Ireland for the second English try, but again they will be disappointed with their efforts.

England’s attacking play throughout this passage is sublime, as they offload out of tackles, constantly forcing Ireland to work hard in defence, until the fatigue finally tells with Murray out of play.

The second last phase is crucial, as Tuilagi comes on a hard, direct line [red below] off Young’s long pass [white] that attracts both Ringrose and Cian Healy into the tackle.

Rugby 11

Farrell makes a superb clearout to ensure quick ball and the opportuni

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