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Analysis: Why Ireland turn to Caelan Doris when they need a big play

Mayo native has become one of the best No 8s in the sport.

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WHEN IRELAND NEEDED a big play in the final quarter against Australia last weekend, they turned to Caelan Doris. 

Good teams put their best players into advantageous positions and that’s exactly what Ireland did in the build-up to Bundee Aki’s try.

When the Wallabies defend lineouts outside their 22, they put out-half Bernard Foley into the five-metre channel to protect him from big ball-carriers. We can see Foley in the five-metre channel in the example below.

However, when they’re defending inside their own 22, the Wallabies put Foley back in the traditional slot for an out-half off a lineout, as highlighted below. 

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This is perhaps because the Wallabies are more concerned about their shortside defence in these instances and feel that Foley will have more bodies around him to help make tackles.

Either way, it’s an opportunity and Ireland use a smart lineout play to get Doris – one of their most effective carriers – running at Foley.

James Ryan calls the lineout on himself in the middle and there’s an instant maul threat there that attracts the bulk of the Wallabies forwards.

Ryan transfers the ball immediately to Josh van der Flier who rotates away to the right as Andrew Porter, coming from the front of the lineout, latches onto him and creates a new maul threat. That lures Wallabies tailgunner Michael Hooper in.

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That’s exactly what Ireland are hoping for as Doris accelerates around from his initial position at the front of the lineout and takes a disguised pass from van der Flier.

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Wallabies lock Nick Frost gets a read on the play but Doris brushes past him and rampages right through Foley in a big mismatch. 

It’s a huge surge from Doris in a game where his ball-carrying was as important as ever for Ireland. 

The momentum he generates here is crucial in Ireland scoring on 10th phase after Doris has carried twice more in close quarters. 

Doris’ impact on the ball is also important in Ireland’s exit work – how they set up to kick out of their defensive territory. We see an extreme example of that below as he powers through Allan Alaalatoa’s tackle attempt for a huge gain before Ireland kick . . . 

To read this analysis in full and enjoy the many benefits of The42 membership including access to the unmissable Rugby Weekly podcast with Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Eoin Toolan, click here.  

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Murray Kinsella

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