Sch­midt of­fers some words of com­fort to Car­bery and McGrath

Coach be­lieves half backs will learn from ex­pe­ri­ence in Chicago Lar­mour and Beirne, on their full de­buts, pro­duce big per­for­mances

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby - Gerry Thorn­ley

As be­fit­ted a half-empty sta­dium, this could be con­sid­ered as ei­ther a glass half-full or half-empty per­for­mance. A slightly cu­ri­ous, rel­a­tively low-key game was as much about in­di­vid­u­als as the col­lec­tive. And while it will quickly fade from the mem­ory, it had its value.

Joe Sch­midt him­self took a glass half-empty ver­dict from the first pe­riod and a half-full one from the sec­ond. The rel­a­tive slug­gish­ness of the re­cy­cling in that first pe­riod, cou­pled with the re­set­ting of scrums and in­jury “time-outs”, added to its stop start na­ture.

The head coach also cited this in mit­i­ga­tion for the young half-backs Luke McGrath and Joey Car­bery, on whom most eyes were trailed in the ab­sence of Conor Mur­ray and Johnny Sex­ton, be­fore they were di­verted on to Jor­dan Lar­mour.

“I think it’s really hard for halves to in­ject tempo onto the game if the ball is slow and big pile­ups are hap­pen­ing and they’re phys­i­cal de­fen­sively. A few of them [Ital­ian play­ers] walked past me on the way out, they’re big square-shoul­dered men and they are hard to break down if it all slows down. So, I thought in the sec­ond half they both really picked up the tempo.”

Con­ser­va­tive

“I thought they played really well. If any­thing, maybe a lit­tle bit con­ser­va­tively in the first half. There were times when they could have tried to open the game up a lit­tle bit and we took the more con­ser­va­tive op­tions, but those are things that they will look back on and keep learn­ing.”

Car­bery’s was a par­tic­u­larly odd dis­play. He missed a cou­ple of first-half tack­les, and took the ball both deep and flat. His mind seemed too clut­tered in ap­ply­ing the pat­terns to Ire­land’s play, and re­lied less on in­stinct.

He also pro­vided fur­ther ev­i­dence that his kick­ing out of hand is a work in process (al­though his abil­ity to switch fairly ef­fort­less on to his left foot caught the eye) and pressed the en­ve­lope when his at­tempted skip pass was picked off by Gi­ulio Bisegni.

“While we had some num­bers there I think we were never go­ing to get the space on the edge. Even if he didn’t pick the pass off he [Bisegni] would have prob­a­bly hit Ja­cob into touch if he’d gone for the man in­stead,” said Sch­midt, who nev­er­the­less took com­fort in know­ing that Car­bery will learn from that de­ci­sion. “He’s a kid that learns well and works hard.”

Con­fi­dence

“Joey didn’t run to­day,” said Sch­midt, “and so I just felt he was try­ing really hard to bring ev­ery­one else into the game, and one of the strengths of Joey’s game is bring­ing him­self to the fore. So, I hope he gets a bit of con­fi­dence from what he did to­day and mixes that up a lit­tle bit.”

So, on a day also fea­tur­ing big shifts from two-try full debu­tant Tadhg Beirne, Jack McGrath, An­drew Porter, Jack Co­nan, Rhys Rud­dock, Bundee Aki and Garry Rin­grose, as well as strong im­pact off the bench, not least from the front-row­ers, the star­dust came from Jor­dan Lar­mour.

The amount of times Lar­mour left a trail of bam­boo­zled Az­zuri op­po­nents on the ground was like some­thing out of a comic sketch. His fig­ures were ridicu­lous. Three tries, one as­sist, 245 me­tres made from just a dozen car­ries, with six clean line breaks and a dozen de­fend­ers beaten (it seemed like much more). Conor O’Shea wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, to draw com­par­isons with Chris­tian Cullen.

Rel­a­tively bare

His tim­ing is in­nate, and this ap­plies to his ar­rival on the scene too. The back three cup­board, not so long ago packed with op­tions, sud­denly looks rel­a­tively bare, with the si­mul­ta­ne­ous re­tire­ments of Jared Payne, Tommy Bowe and An­drew Trim­ble, com­pounded by Simo Zebo’s move to France.

Aug­ment­ing Lar­mour’s stun­ning full de­but was a last-quar­ter cameo by the debu­tant 26-year-old Will Ad­di­son off the bench. First name-checked by Sch­midt around four years ago, Ad­di­son ad­mit­ted that the coach has been on his case for some time.

“It’s a while ago now, I’m strug­gling to re­mem­ber, but once you hear that voice down the phone it’s a bit awe-in­spir­ing. I’ve had a bit of con­tact here or there with him, but the main fo­cus for me af­ter that sort of con­tact with a man like him is to put the hard work in. For­tu­nately I’ve got to this stage right now, but it’s only a start and I’ve got to keep kick­ing on.”

His ver­sa­til­ity, run­ning abil­ity and com­po­sure on the ball at Ul­ster, an ex­pe­ri­ence which he de­scribes as “un­be­liev­able”, have been eye-catch­ing, and hav­ing first trained with the squad last June for a week in Mel­bourne, it was no sur­prise that he seemed to fit in ef­fort­lessly here.

“Hon­estly, it was a huge de­ci­sion to leave the club I loved at Sale, and I had some great mem­o­ries from there and close friend­ships and be­ing cap­tain, it was tough to leave.

But once I made the de­ci­sion to leave, I put ev­ery­thing into mak­ing it the right de­ci­sion, and luck­ily I’ve been re­warded with this ex­pe­ri­ence. But I need to do a lot more to make the de­ci­sion worth­while.”

It’s really hard for halves to in­ject tempo onto the game if the ball is slow

Rab­bit hole

If Kear­ney is ruled out against Ar­gentina, Lar­mour looks sure to start, and Ad­di­son could find him­self in the match-day 23 again.

Ad­di­son has never faced Lar­mour be­fore, but main­tained: “I’m look­ing for­ward to that be­cause it’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing when that hap­pens. But the guy has got elec­tric feet and he just pops out of a rab­bit hole at times when you think you’ve got him cov­ered.”

“He’s a real tal­ent, and when Ul­ster come up against Le­in­ster in De­cem­ber time, hope­fully he’s go­ing to be pretty well marked be­cause he’s so dan­ger­ous.”

Nicely put too.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: INPHO

Cen­tre Garry Rin­grose races through the Italy de­fence to score Ire­land’s sev­enth try at Solider Field, Chicago, on Satur­day.

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