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Analysis: Rory Best was the real star of Paul O'Connell's try in London
The hooker’s superb rucking opened a hole for the Ireland captain.

WE’VE BEEN WAITING for Ireland to strike with a clever set-piece play during the World Cup warm-ups and it finally came during the mini-revival Joe Schmidt’s side had in the second half of their defeat to England.

Ireland went close with something similar against Wales a week before in Dublin, with Sean O’Brien peeling to the front of a close-range lineout before a remarkable turnover by Justin Tipuric, but this time Schmidt’s men got over the line.


Just over five metres from the English line, Ireland go with a full seven-man lineout and the expectation was of a maul. Stuart Lancaster’s side opt to get up and compete for the Irish throw, as they had done successfully in a similar position in the first half.

That competition in the air plays into Ireland’s hands, leaving the English with fewer defenders in a position to react to the peel around the back.

Toner claims the ball in the air – thanks to some excellent lifting from Paul O’Connell and Mike Ross – and then transfers to Peter O’Mahony, how has moved to accept it from an initial position as a potential jumper towards the front of the lineout.

Jack McGrath makes a similar move from the very front of the starting lineout formation, looping around to O’Mahony’s outside shoulder as the blindside flanker spins to pass to Jamie Heaslip.


Right at the back of the Ireland lineout, Sean O’Brien provides a small but important detail in widening the dummy maul set-up around Toner, drawing Tom Wood into engaging with him.

McGrath provides a screen in front of Toner’s pop pass as he moves forward and it appears the hope on Ireland’s part is that England hooker Tom Youngs, who starts in the receiver position, will be drawn towards the loosehead prop.

As it happens, Youngs make a superb read and there is a brief hint that McGrath is tempted to reach out and grab the Leicester hooker to prevent him from getting to Heaslip. The Irish prop keeps his discipline and the tackle is made.

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While every individual action in the 10 seconds it takes Ireland to score is important, Rory Best is the key man in the machine. The above angle gives us an idea of the hooker’s effort to race around the back of the lineout to be in position to clear out when Heaslip is halted.

That comes after an accurate throw, and the quality of the rucking on Joe Launchbury is sensational.

With the England lock shaping to jackal over the ball, Best accelerates upwards into the contact, wrapping his left arm tightly around Launchbury’s head/neck and getting a slight lift of his left leg too.


Launchbury immediately surrenders any thought of a poach, but Best is ruthless with his rucking action, driving the Englishman over a metre beyond the breakdown point and opening up a huge gap in front of the ‘ruck’.

O’Connell arrives on the scene rabidly and doesn’t need a second invitation to power into the hole left by Best’s excellent rucking. The 35-year-old shows great dynamism to force his way over and touch down.


The depth of Best’s rucking also means that Ben Morgan and Chris Robshaw are unable to fold across to the inside shoulder of Joe Marler, who appears to expect them to be able to do so.

All in all, it’s a clinical 10 seconds of play from Ireland and the hope is that they have many more plays like this example ready for the World Cup.

Best’s rucking effort is one that Schmidt’s side won’t get away with all over the pitch as referees look for players going deep, but the ferocity and accuracy of his contribution, and those of others in this score, signifies the benchmark moving forward.

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