Sir Ian McGeechan

Eng­land lost but they are not far off be­ing a good team

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page -

Ire­land showed tac­ti­cal clar­ity from the word go while Eng­land were fran­tic. Eng­land got off to a re­ally poor start. For the first 10 min­utes they made it easy for Ire­land, giv­ing away silly penal­ties, con­sis­tently get­ting caught off­side. What should have been a huge ad­van­tage – play­ing at home in front of 80,000 fans – was nul­li­fied as they kept hand­ing pos­ses­sion back to their vis­i­tors. Ire­land, by con­trast, showed dis­ci­pline and nous right from the off: who was car­ry­ing, when they were car­ry­ing, who was sup­port­ing them when they car­ried, who was next in. Ev­ery­one knew their roles, with and with­out the ball.

When Sex­ton kicked that early up-and-un­der you just knew it would lead to prob­lems. An­thony Wat­son fum­bled and Ire­land’s fol­low-up was so good. When Sex­ton missed that penalty af­ter 21 min­utes, Ire­land’s fol­low-up again was ex­em­plary.

They re­gained pos­ses­sion on the half­way, Sex­ton ran a loop, Bundee Aki broke clear and CJ Stander scored against the up­right. Eng­land, mean­while, looked fran­tic. Des­per­ate to do some­thing but not quite clear how to do it.

They kicked for the cor­ner four times in one spell in the first half, when Peter O’Ma­hony was sin-binned, and ended up get­ting turned over.

Ire­land’s de­fence ex­em­plary

Joe Sch­midt will take the plau­dits, and rightly so. But a lot of credit must go to Andy Far­rell. Ire­land let in three tries again (as they did against Italy and Wales), but when it mat­tered, at the key mo­ments, they were so dis­ci­plined. Ev­ery player took re­spon­si­bil­ity.

At the start of the sec­ond half, Eng­land again had a five-minute spell when they re­ally ap­plied some con­sis­tent pres­sure. I think they went through 14 phases at one point in­side Ire­land’s 22 me­tre line. Ire­land did not miss one tackle in that pe­riod. Even­tu­ally, Daly was pe­nalised for a head roll and Ire­land were able to clear their lines. It was bril­liant de­fence.

Eng­land re­main a work in progress

Ed­die Jones said af­ter­wards that he felt his team were im­prov­ing. And while there will un­doubt­edly be mur­mur­ings of dis­con­tent at that, given the fact Eng­land won the pre­vi­ous two Six Na­tions ti­tles and os­ten­si­bly took a big step back­wards in this cam­paign, I think there is some truth in what Ed­die said. In the con­text of the last month if noth­ing else, Eng­land have im­proved.

This was a step for­ward from the Scot­land and France de­feats. It should have been, mind you, given the fact Eng­land were play­ing at Twick­en­ham. The build-up to Far­rell’s grub­ber through for El­liot Daly’s first try was their best pas­sage of play in the match.

They showed they could mix it up, get­ting a va­ri­ety of car­ri­ers on the ball, kick­ing in behind Ire­land. That was the blue­print for how this Eng­land team should play.

They also had a spell in the last 10 min­utes of the game when they put Ire­land un­der con­sis­tent pres­sure, scor­ing three tries in the end. Eng­land are not far off be­ing a good team. Yes­ter­day’s se­lec­tion helped I thought. Wigglesworth and Far­rell was a bet­ter bal­ance at nine and 10. James Haskell and Chris Rob­shaw made it a bat­tle at the breakdown.

There is not much wrong with the back three or out­side backs. You keep com­ing back to the mid­field and the back row, though.

Eng­land are re­ally strug­gling to get the right bal­ance there. Billy Vu­nipola, in par­tic­u­lar, is a huge ab­sence. I think there is go­ing to be a lot of hand­wring­ing about the Pre­mier­ship and the de­mands it places on Eng­land play­ers, com­pared with the Pro 14 and the de­mands it places on Ire­land’s. Far­rell has played 1,200 min­utes this

Tadhg Fur­long was made man of the match, but for me it was Conor Mur­ray

sea­son to Sex­ton’s 600. Some­times less is more.

Ire­land are look­ing good for Ja­pan 2019

Tadhg Fur­long was given man of the match. And you could hardly ar­gue with that. But Conor Mur­ray, for me, just shaded it. His con­trol of Ire­land’s for­wards, his con­trol of ter­ri­tory – par­tic­u­larly with his part­ner in crime, Johnny Sex­ton, off the pitch – were ex­em­plary.

He and Sex­ton re­main so cru­cial to the way Sch­midt wants his team to play. But Ire­land have grow­ing strength in depth. The way they coped with­out Sex­ton, the way Joey Car­bery filled in – Sch­midt will be de­lighted with the min­utes he got un­der his belt in a high-in­ten­sity, high-pres­sure fix­ture – the way Ja­cob Stock­dale and James Ryan have stepped up to the plate. Ire­land are in fan­tas­tic shape.

Owen Far­rell: The fly-half ’s grub­ber kick set up an ex­cel­lent try for El­liot Daly

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