Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 7°C
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Eight new caps, Dillane's impression and selection calls for Schmidt
Connacht fullback Tiernan O’Halloran was very impressive for Ireland.

JOE SCHMIDT’S IRELAND ran eight tries past Canada in a 52-21 victory in their November Test at the Aviva Stadium.

Read our match report here

Dillane the destroyer

It was a shame Ultan Dillane’s 73-minute, man-of-the-match performance ended with a knock-on, particulary as it was so in contrast with the majority of what had come before.

Ultan Dillane presented with the man of the match award by Gemma Bell James Crombie / INPHO Dillane was man of the match in Dublin. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The 23-year-old Connacht lock was excellent for Joe Schmidt’s side, powering through 12 carries to beat four defenders and make a scintillating clean linebreak. That first-half bust was Dillane at his best – explosive acceleration and a rapid-fire fend.

He had men outside him in space for this second-half try, but backed himself to finish powerfully. Defensively, his nine tackles were also largely impactful and technically strong.

This was Dillane’s first start for Ireland, we must remember, and what an impressive one it was. He has a bright, bright future in Test rugby.

The Connacht cast

Not far behind Dillane in terms of individual performance was fullback Tiernan O’Halloran, his Connacht team-mate. Two tries were ample reward for a typically creative and heads-up attacking performance from the former Galway minor footballer.

Kieran Marmion, Niyi Adeolokun, Tiernan O’Halloran, Ultan Dillane and Finlay Bealham James Crombie / INPHO Connacht's five Ireland players post-match. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The 25-year-old almost teed up Keith Earls in the left corner in the second half, showing his classy offloading ability to free the ball through the tackle, only for his left wing to fail to reel it in.

O’Halloran’s first try was a pure delight, as he picked a stunning line off his provincial team-mate Finlay Bealham to scorch through a despairing arm and sprint over from 40 metres out.

That was one of many impressive moments from Bealham, who was replaced by John Ryan with 48 minutes gone and his calves cramping. The Connacht prop hit very hard in the tackle and imposed himself in all forms of contact, readying himself for another back-up slot to Tadhg Furlong next weekend.

At scrum-half Kieran Marmion will have garnered valuable experience of managing a Test match, while he showed his sniping intelligence to set up Earls for the first try. There is still work ahead in terms of the consistency of his passing and kicking.

Niyi Adeolokun joined some of his Connacht mates on the pitch in the 67th minute for his debut, capping off a remarkable rise from playing AIL rugby with Trinity only three seasons ago.

Earls and O’Brien show up

Keith Earls and Sean O’Brien both returned for Ireland impressively, while Peter O’Mahony and Paddy Jackson were the other two high-profile returnees.

Sean O'Brien is tackled by Connor Braid Billy Stickland / INPHO Sean O'Brien carried well for Ireland. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

O’Brien was powerful in the ball-carrying department, making 33 metres over the course of 13 surges on the ball, while there were two offloads in his performance. The first was a spectacular catflap effort from his right hand, the second a shorter pop in traffic.

Rather remarkably, O’Brien had only two tackles to make this evening, but with the Tullow man having completed 68 minutes there will now be strong temptation for Schmidt to include him against the All Blacks next weekend.

Jordi Murphy is out injured, meaning O’Brien is in a shoot-out with Josh van der Flier to start, or with O’Mahony for the bench spot.

Earls was impressive out on Ireland’s left wing, with his sensational footwork creating the space for Luke Marshall’s try, while he finished his own simply in the left corner to open the scoring for Ireland.

He wasn’t completely flawless, but again there was enough here to tempt Schmidt into considering a change to his back three. Simon Zebo and Andrew Trimble were superb in Chicago, but Earls adds to the competition and could also provide a versatile edge off the bench.

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Jackson’s solid display and 100% goal-kicking may see him earn a place on Ireland’s bench against the All Blacks, while O’Mahony had some big moments against the Canadians and captained the side well.

The new-found depth and competition is highly encouraging for Ireland.

Eight new Ireland internationals

Leinster’s Dan Leavy became Ireland international number 1089 in the 68th minute when he replaced Sean O’Brien, with seven others having reached their own memorable milestone before him in this tie.

James Tracy with his parents Sile and Jim Tracy James Crombie / INPHO James Tracy celebrates with his parents. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Garry Ringrose provided glimpses of his quality – one linebreak and offload late on in particular – Billy Holland was typically solid on his debut, while the third debutant starter Jack O’Donoghue showed his dynamism at number eight.

Off the bench, Ryan was rewarded for his Munster form, while Luke McGrath made what seemed like a long-awaited Ireland debut. Adeolokun got a rousing cheer upon his introduction, as James Tracy entered the fray to score an unforgettable try.

While the Ireland performance was sloppy in places and frustrating in others, it is utterly positive that eight new players are now internationals, adding to the first bow of Joey Carbery against the All Blacks.

Schmidt and the IRFU have identified increased player depth as key to Ireland being competitive at the very top level of the game, and the introduction of these new faces is a clear sign of that goal.

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