'That's what Ireland need, multiple first receivers and an unpredictability'

Ireland’s attack came in for praise on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

Johnny Sexton is Ireland's chief playmaker.
Johnny Sexton is Ireland's chief playmaker.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

WHILE ANDY FARRELL was most pleased with his side’s defensive work on Saturday against Italy, there were encouraging signs in attack too as Ireland scored seven tries.

It was a performance with plenty of imperfections but there were some excellent attacking passages that featured in the discussion on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast with Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella available to members of The42 every Monday.

While Eoin also highlighted Ireland’s defensive qualities as having been the key factor in their win over Italy, he pointed to some of the promising signs in their attacking game.

Among those positives was the sight of players other than Johnny Sexton stepping up as first receivers for Ireland, taking some of the playmaking responsibility from the out-half’s shoulders.

“Fluidity is something we’ve talked about on this podcast a bit and it’s around having multiple playmakers at first receiver,” said Eoin.

“In the second half, Johnny makes a nice break down the left-hand side and makes 10 metres on the carry. When it breaks open on the right two phases later, Hugo Keenan is the first receiver on the right edge – don’t forget he’s the left winger – and he’s got Tadhg Beirne coming on the short ball with Jacob Stockdale out the back.

“That’s what Ireland need, multiple first receivers and an unpredictability about who is going to be in what position across the backline.

“That’s a really exciting sign from an Irish attacking perspective.”

Meanwhile, Eoin felt there was promise from Farrell’s side on transition attack, notably for Bundee Aki’s second-half try and also the sweeping score from inside Ireland’s own 22 after Caelan Doris’ first-half turnover, finished by Hugo Keenan.

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conor-murray-makes-a-break Conor Murray came in for praise on the latest podcast. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s a world-class kick from Conor Murray, I have to say, just to have the composure. He looks right first then gets the call from Sexton to come back to the left. It’s really indicative of all the Irish backs in terms of their scanning patterns, looking downfield.

“Sexton automatically looked forward and saw the kick space, that’s what he’s directing Conor Murray to. To have the ability, on the wrong side for a right-footed kicker, to kick it on the outside of his boot and weight it to perfection to Hugo Keenan was an impressive bit of skill.

“But the other exciting thing from an Ireland perspective is the numbers that are getting to Conor Murray in support. If you watch it back, have a look at Andrew Conway on the right wing, where he comes from to try and get to that inside support. You’ve got Sexton, Keenan, Bundee Aki is part of the initial break. 

“It’s a really positive sign from a mentality perspective around Ireland. That was was a world-class try.”

Eoin felt Sexton’s second-half try, which started with fullback Stockdale catching an Italy kick inside his own half, was “one of the best tries I’ve seen Ireland score in quite a while from a multi-phase attack perspective and I thought there was a huge amount to like about it.”

The lads also discussed Ireland’s defensive breakdown qualities, standout debuts for Keenan and Will Connors, and whether Farrell should make any changes to his starting XV for next weekend.

With Ireland heading to Paris for their final Six Nations game, the podcast features analysis of France’s win over Wales on Saturday, while Eoin and Murray also chatted about Ireland Women’s victory against Italy, as well as Pro14 successes for Connacht, Ulster, and Leinster.

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