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Analysis: Leavy leads the way and Porter's big ruck impact for Ireland

We’ve dug into the detail of Ireland’s rucking efforts against Italy last weekend.

WITH JOSH VAN der Flier ruled out for the rest of the season and Sean O’Brien still on the recovery trail from a hip injury, Dan Leavy has seized his opportunity in Ireland’s seven shirt.

Having been a dominant figure off Ireland’s bench in the opening round win over France, Leavy delivered another fine performance against Italy in round two of the Six Nations last weekend.

Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy and Peter O'Mahony Leavy was busy at ruck time against the Italians. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

It wasn’t a perfect display from the 23-year-old, with Joe Schmidt highlighting how disappointed Leavy will be with a missed tackle on Tommaso Castello that led to Italy’s first try.

Winning just his sixth Ireland cap, it was a lesson for Leavy in terms of the concentration required at the top level, with his tackling usually being such a strength.

The rest of Leavy’s game showed up well again, however, as he carried and passed for Ireland, as well as throwing one accurate offload and completing six tackles.

But it was at ruck time that Leavy stood out most for Ireland, leading the way with a total of 32 contributions in attack and defence.

With Ireland’s game against Scotland understood to be a more realistic possible return date for O’Brien, it looks like Leavy could be facing into his biggest test yet against Wales in two weekends’ time.

His performance in the rucks for Ireland against Italy bodes well if he is to start against Warren Gatland’s side.

* Check out last week’s rucks piece for more information on the system The42 uses to rate rucking performances.

Turnover specialist

Anyone who has watched Leavy in action for Leinster will understand that poaching opposition ball is one of his major strengths.

While Ireland have been notably selective in targeting the opposition ball at the breakdown so far in this Six Nations, Leavy did cause real disruption for the Italians on Saturday, with a total of seven defensive actions.

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Click here if you cannot view the clip above

He had Ireland’s only two turnovers - including the effort above that led to Keith Earls’ try – while he also managed to slow the Italian ball twice.

Going forward, Leavy was equally important and he had just one ineffective marking across his 32 contributions. Only Peter O’Mahony and Devin Toner were first arrival to more rucks than Leavy, while he led the way with 11 second arrivals.

In terms of the quality of his ruck hits, a dominant shot as first arrival and a total of 17 effective clearouts underlined his prowess in this area.

Porter’s impressive impact

Having to get through a 76-minute shift after Tadhg Furlong’s early exit with a hamstring injury meant a heavy workload for 22-year-old tighthead prop Andrew Porter.

His 13 carries were largely impressive and showed his mobility, while he completed all of his six tackles and did a solid job at scrum time.

His 26 total ruck contributions meant he was the fourth busiest Irish player in this department and, aside from one ineffective clearout as second arrival, he delivered plenty of strong moments.

Andrew Porter Porter made an impressive Six Nations debut. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Eight effective hits as first arrival, five more as second arrival and one bite at the Italian ball in defence were among his highlights.

Porter was making only his first Six Nations appearance for Ireland last weekend and while it increasingly looks like Furlong will be fit to face Wales on 24 February, Porter showed that the longer-term future at tighthead is bright.

Busy Bundee

As we pointed out last week, the inside centre role with Ireland involves plenty of physical contact.

While Bundee Aki did get to show a more creative streak against Italy, beating five defenders and setting up Keith Earls’ try wonderfully, he was busy in close quarters once again.

The Connacht man’s rucking is perhaps an underappreciated area of his game, with his work rate in this area always being high. He was involved as a guard lots in this game, but that simply showed us that Aki was fulfilling all his roles around the ruck.

With 20 contributions in total, Aki was the busiest of Ireland’s backs at ruck time and his eight first arrivals included six effective hits.

Bundee Aki Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

Elsewhere, back row Peter O’Mahony backed up his big workload against France in round one with another highly effective ruck performance, his actions totalling 31 in the end.

Again, the quality was high from the Munster captain and with his passing continuing to feature strongly for Ireland, the impression that his role has greatly morphed grew even further.

Devin Toner always features prominently in the ruck reviews and his 29 contributions put him third on Ireland’s overall list, while 11 effective hits will have pleased Schmidt as the battle between Toner and James Ryan continues.

Typically, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls were very effective in their rucking performances, while Jack Conan also showed up well on a number of occasions before his half-time exit through injury, with the number eight making a dominant hit before Robbie Henshaw’s try.

Improvement

As ever, many will write it off simply because Italy were poor, but Schmidt will have been pleased that his side’s collective rucking performance was an improvement on the showing against France.

There were fewer rucks in this game, but Ireland dropped to nine ineffective markings [that figure was 30 against France] and six spares [16 the weekend before].

Joe Schmidt during the warm up Schmidt's coaching around the ruck is superb. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Once again, Ireland placed a huge onus on only attacking the opposition breakdown when there was a clear opening.

Their defensive strategy in this area has become far more selective, with just 24 defensive actions against Italy very similar to the 23 against France.

With 13 defenders in their frontline now, Schmidt and Andy Farrell appear to have asked their players only to go at the ball when the opposition have clearly under-resourced the tackle area.

Interestingly, Ireland now appear to be more focused on slowing the ball down in the actual tackle, with lots of long, wrestling tackles slowing the opposition.

The choke tackle remains a focus at times and with 13 bodies in the defensive line more often than not, Schmidt’s men are frequently employing stifling double tackles in which they hold the ball off the ground for as long as possible, negating the need to attack it on the ground.

Total ruck contributions

Dan Leavy with Dean Budd Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

32 Dan Leavy (11 first, 11 second, 3 third, 7 defensive)

31 Peter O’Mahony (14 first, 10 second, 5 third, 2 defensive)

29 Devin Toner (12 first, 10 second, 7 third)

26 Andrew Porter (11 first, 10 second, 3 third, 1 fourth, 1 defensive)

22 Jack McGrath (8 first, 5 second, 7 third, 2 fourth)

22 Rory Best (7 first, 7 second, 4 third, 1 fourth, 3 defensive)

20 Bundee Aki (8 first, 4 second, 8 third)

17 Iain Henderson (4 first, 7 second, 3 third, 2 fourth, 1 defensive)

15 Quinn Roux (4 first, 7 second, 1 third, 3 defensive)

13 Keith Earls (4 first, 5 second, 4 third)

11 Jack Conan (5 first, 3 second, 3 third)

Rob Kearney (5 first, 3 second, 1 third)

CJ Stander (1 first, 1 second, 1 third, 5 defensive)

Sean Cronin (1 second, 4 third, 1 defensive)

Robbie Henshaw (1 first, 2 second, 2 third, 1 fourth, 1 defensive)

Jordan Larmour (2 first, 2 second, 1 third)

Kieran Marmion (5 first)

Jacob Stockdale (2 first, 2 third, 1 defensive)

Cian Healy (1 first, 2 second, 2 third)

Tadhg Furlong (1 first, 1 second)

Conor Murray (1 first, 1 defensive)

Johnny Sexton (1 second)

 First arrival

CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

14 Peter O’Mahony (10 effective, 4 guard)

12 Devin Toner (6 effective, 6 guard)

11 Dan Leavy (1 dominant, 8 effective, 1 guard, 1 ineffective)

11 Andrew Porter (8 effective, 3 guard)

Bundee Aki (6 effective, 1 guard)

Jack McGrath (3 effective, 5 guard)

Rory Best (6 effective, 1 guard)

Rob Kearney (4 effective, 1 guard)

Jack Conan (3 effective, two ineffective)

Kieran Marmion (3 effective, 1 guard, 1 ineffective)

Iain Henderson (2 effective, 1 guard, 1 ineffective)

Keith Earls (3 effective, 1 guard)

Quinn Roux (3 effective, 1 guard)

Jordan Larmour (2 effective)

Jacob Stockdale (1 effective, 1 ineffective)

CJ Stander (1 effective)

Tadhg Furlong (1 effective)

Robbie Henshaw (1 effective)

Cian Healy (1 guard)

Conor Murray (1 effective)

Second arrival

Andrew Porter and Andrea Lovotti at the bottom of a collapsed scrum Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

11 Dan Leavy (9 effective, 2 guard)

10 Andrew Porter (5 effective, 4 guard, 1 ineffective)

10 Peter O’Mahony (4 effective, 6 guard)

10 Devin Toner (5 effective, 4 guard, 1 ineffective)

Iain Henderson (3 effective, 4 guard)

Quinn Roux (3 effective, 4 guard)

Rory Best (2 effective, 5 guard)

Jack McGrath (2 effective, 3 guard)

Keith Earls (3 effective, 2 guard)

Bundee Aki (1 dominant, 1 effective, 2 guard)

Rob Kearney (1 effective, 2 guard)

Jack Conan (1 dominant, 1 effective, 1 guard)

Cian Healy (1 effective, 1 guard)

Jordan Larmour (2 guard)

Robbie Henshaw (1 guard, 1 ineffective)

Tadhg Furlong (1 effective)

CJ Stander (1 guard)

Third arrival

Bundee Aki with Tizano Pasquali Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Bundee Aki (8 guard)

Devin Toner (7 guard)

Jack McGrath (7 guard)

Peter O’Mahony (1 effective, 3 guard, 1 spare)

Rory Best (1 effective, 3 guard)

Keith Earls (4 guard)

Dan Leavy (2 effective, 1 guard)

Andrew Porter (1 effective, 2 guard)

Jack Conan (1 effective, two guard)

Iain Henderson (3 guard)

Cian Healy (2 guard)

Jacob Stockdale (1 guard, 1 spare)

Robbie Henshaw (1 guard, 1 ineffective)

Rob Kearney (1 effective)

Quinn Roux (1 guard)

Jordan Larmour (1 guard)

CJ Stander (1 guard)

Defensive actions

inpho_01327575 Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Dan Leavy (2 turnovers, 2 slowing, 3 present)

CJ Stander (1 slowing, 3 present, 1 decision)

Rory Best (2 slowing, 1 present)

Quinn Roux (1 slowing, 2 present)

Peter O’Mahony (2 present)

Conor Murray (1 slowing)

Andrew Porter (1 present)

Jacob Stockdale (1 present)

Robbie Henshaw (1 present)

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