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Ireland may have turned a corner just in time for the opening round of the World Cup in Japan following their win over Wales at the Aviva Stadium last weekend.
They looked like they were back to their surgical best with Johnny Sexton managing the team around the pitch. Sexton was raring to go, throwing himself into the contact area but how Ireland moved around the pitch was noticeably different.
It wasn’t an overly exciting performance but that was not the aim of the exercise. They strangled Wales at important times throughout the game.
Despite sometimes looking flat and uninspiring, their phase play was tight and precise.
Conor Murray complimented Sexton’s game very well with control at the base of the ruck punching the attack with carry after carry. There’s no way Schmidt is going to reveal his hand too early but there was an air of the pre-Six Nations Irish game about their performance.
When Ireland were winning the Six Nations and beating the All Blacks, I don’t think anyone was speaking of their loose, exciting style of play. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just effective.
Ireland’s passes were nearly always short and crisp, whether it was Murray hitting a pod of forwards to create quick ball or Sexton hitting them up the middle to get over the gain line and create quick ball. This is because the defence has less time to get off the line and make reads when the ball is in the air.
Of course the return of some key players will help the controlled game plan that we are used to seeing. Robbie Henshaw showed what we had been missing.
Early in the game Ireland’s tight defensive line was almost exposed but Henshaw timed h
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