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'We’re not in this to just kick penalties and drop goals' - Ireland on the attack

Assistant coach Richie Murphy says Ireland will look to build better shapes off the ball.

TIME TO MOVE on from the drop goal, and with Ireland now very much looking forward to Italy on Saturday their attack has been a key focus in the early part of this Six Nations week.

The failure to score a try or create a clear try-scoring chance hurt Joe Schmidt’s side, even if they did find a way to win in Paris at the very death.

“We are not happy we played a game in France and didn’t come away with any tries,” said assistant coach Richie Murphy yesterday at Carton House.

Robbie Henshaw Robbie Henshaw on the attack for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re not in this to just kick penalties and drop goals, so our focus will be to try and tighten up that attack a little bit and try and apply enough pressure to Italy and make sure that those options are put away this week.

“We have got to move away from that French game and just take Italy for what is in front of us. We have seen and identified areas in our attacking game that we want to try and improve and we will go with that.”

There were times against the French when Ireland looked very dangerous, with their opening attack from a left-hand-side lineout in their own half standing out clearly.

The set-piece strike was superbly executed to send Keith Earls all the way up to the 22 before a link pass from Peter O’Mahony allowed Johnny Sexton to feed Rob Kearney for a dart up the left wing, although Nigel Owens called play back for a penalty advantage and three points.

A little later, a link pass from James Ryan out the back door saw Ireland’s backs again send Earls up the right wing, once again leading to three points off the tee.

But Ireland struggled to get into that promising attacking shape as the game developed.

“It was really difficult out there because the ball wasn’t necessarily quick,” said Murphy. “We have had a look at maybe trying to tidy up that some of that – some of that was our fault, some of that maybe wasn’t.

“But we created some good shapes early on and we got some good advantage along the outside channels early on but it’s kinda guys coming together and being used to playing an Ireland system rather than a province’s system, so it just takes a little bit of time to bed in.

Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney and kicking coach Richie Murphy celebrate Murphy joins Sexton and Kearney to celebrate. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I suppose in our first match we were a little bit rusty so it will be something that we focus on this week – trying to make ourselves a little bit more cohesive and making sure that our decision-making is good and that we know who we are running off rather than all leaving at the same time.

“Building our shape a bit better away from the ball is probably one thing we can do, but you have to give credit to the French as well. They defended really, really, really well.

“I think the focus for us this week will be to try to make sure that our decision makers have better options to play at Italy.”

There was a heavy onus on out-half Sexton to be the creator for Ireland in Paris, with very little playmaking responsibility being taken on by other players in the backline.

Murphy says that Ireland have been working hard to ensure all their players can make the decisions, however.

“Our training is multi-phased and there’s a hell of a lot of pressure. We always work two sides of the ball, attack and defence, and the turnovers that will happen within that. So having guys who are comfortable is massive for us, and it’s their decision-making.

“Everyone has the skill level to make the pass. It comes down to the decision-making and trying to pick the right one. Sometimes at the weekend we got it right and sometimes we probably just picked the wrong one or the timing of a run was slightly wrong.

“Tidying up on those things or having played the game, reviewed the game and having trained for a new game will help us with that continuity within the team and everybody understanding their roles.”

Joey Carbery Carbery is a classy playmaker. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Joey Carbery appears to be an ideal second playmaker were Ireland to go down such a route, and Murphy says they have considered playing Sexton and Carbery together.

“Definitely it’s been considered. When he’s sitting on the bench, he’s not only covering 10, we know that he can slot in at 15 pretty easily and he’s played a lot of his rugby there. So it’s definitely something we’ve considered.”

But the reality of Test rugby is that there are many things other than playmaking to consider – defence, kicking, communication, positioning, experience, mental skills and so much more.

So while it might seem tempting to play Sexton and 10 and Carbery at 15, or another playmaker elsewhere in the backline, Schmidt and his coaches must weigh up a lot of factors.

“It’s just trying to get the balance right, isn’t it?” says Murphy. “Obviously, Rob [Kearney] gives us a massive amount of certainty at full-back with his aerial skills and stuff like that.

“So it’s just a matter of trying to fit the players into the backline that we feel are ready to bring us forward from week to week.

“I think Joey is an incredible player, and obviously he’s a beautiful broken-field runner, so whether he got a run at fullback it would definitely give things to us in relation to some of our attack but, on the other side, it might take away in other things.”

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Analysis: Peter O’Mahony’s unseen work and all the Ireland rucks against France

‘It’s a learning experience and the challenge now is to get things right this week’

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Murray Kinsella

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