Rugby Rúaidhrí O’Connor: ‘Ruthless Irish back at peak 2018 levels but can do better’

Rugby Rúaidhrí O’Connor: ‘Ruthless Irish back at peak 2018 levels but can do better’

Rugby I be nuts about components, because they are huge!

Rugby Ireland’s haul from visits to 22 against Scots above their best as they ram home advantage


Rugby Locked and loaded: Iain Henderson breaks through the Scottish defensive line to set up field position for James Ryan’s try. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Locked and loaded: Iain Henderson breaks through the Scottish defensive line to set up field position for James Ryan’s try. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

During their epic 13-month spell between the beginning of November 2017 and the start of December 2018 Ireland became one of the most efficient teams in the world when it came to taking their chances.

Getting into the opposition 22 is a tough thing, the ability to score once you’re there has become one of the most important metrics by which you can judge a team.

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Over the course of that run, Joe Schmidt’s team beat all of their rivals at this World Cup and they did it in style, only losing once to Australia before recovering to beat them twice to secure a historic 2-1 away series win.

Over the course of that time, they averaged 2.99 points per entry into the opposition 22.

In this year’s Six Nations, teams actively worked to prevent Ireland getting into their territory; denying them lineouts and hogging the ball. When they did get down into the 22, Schmidt’s side were less effective.

Scope

On Sunday, they returned three points per visit to the Scottish red-zone and when Schmidt reviews the footage he’ll see there was scope for so much more.

It would be unrealistic to expect Ireland to score every time they put an opponent under pressure, rugby doesn’t work like that.

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But what Ireland are capable of doing when they are in tune and on song is stubbornly staying until their opponents give them something.

Schmidt’s wide array of set-piece plays helps engineer the territory from which to squeeze opponents, while Ireland’s resurgent kick-chase game pins them back and forces them to defend.

At their 2018 height, they’d go through 20-plus phases and keep going until the defence coughed up a penalty or a try. If they were feeling particularly good, they’d kick to the corner or take the scrum and go again.

On Sunday, they visited the Scottish 22 nine times, scoring tries the first three times they got a sniff of the line. It was mightily impressive.

To beat the best teams, Ireland need to keep improving. The higher the standard, the harder it is to get into those positions and then the ability to take the chance is at a premium.

Reviewing all nine entries reveals the high level of Ireland’s play, but also shows there’s room

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