Rugby Best performance of 2019 will send Ireland to Japan in good spirits

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2019 HASN’T BEEN a great year for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland so far, but the head coach remains convinced that the best is yet to come from his men with their World Cup campaign kicking off in just 12 days’ time.

Ireland depart for Japan on Wednesday and will jet out in good spirits after delivering what was their best performance of 2019 against Wales last weekend in Dublin.

The wins against Scotland and France in this year’s Six Nations shouldn’t be dismissed but this felt more complete from Ireland, even if it was just a warm-up fixture.

Rugby rob-kearney-with-jonathan-sextons-son-luca-after-the-game
Rob Kearney with Johnny Sexton’s son, Luca.


Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Let’s be clear that there is still plenty of work for Ireland to do between now and their Pool A opener against Scotland in Yokohama on 22 September, while Wales were poor in Dublin, but there was lots to like in Saturday’s 19-10 victory over Warren Gatland’s side.

The Welsh coach dressed it up as unimportant, though he won’t have enjoyed seeing his team – missing some key starters – being physically outmuscled by Ireland.

There were three tries from Ireland – as well as a couple of other close calls – as they brought a more clinical edge to their visits into the opposition 22, grinding and bullying their way over when opportunities arose. This was far more like the Ireland of 2018.

That said, we simply don’t know yet if Ireland’s attacking palate is sufficient to break down the very best teams at the World Cup. They may not be able to bully everyone and we still await to see if the hard work on their phase play this summer bears fruit, though the signs have been promising. There is also more to come from their set-piece attack.

Ireland’s lineout wobbled early in the game as Wales picked off their opening two throws and denied Schmidt’s men a platform, but the head coach was pleased with how caller James Ryan and co. “problem-solved” their way through the issues. The scrum, on the whole, was excellent at key moments.

There is much for Ireland to get better at, with mixed results from their kicking game as they finally unleashed Conor Murray’s

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