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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 24 February 2021

Ireland defend themselves after Wallabies question 'blocking' tactics

‘We didn’t feel like we did anything that any other team in the world isn’t doing.’

Murray Kinsella reports from Sydney

IRELAND HAVE DEFENDED themselves after the Wallabies said they will seek clarity from referees over the tactics used by Joe Schmidt’s side to limit Israel Folau’s aerial influence last weekend in Melbourne.

The Wallabies fullback played a major role in the Australians’ first Test win over Ireland in Brisbane, winning several key battles in the air.

However, his influence on last weekend’s second Test was limited and he didn’t make a single catch from a kick at AAMI Park.

Keith Earls wins a high ball ahead of Israel Folau Folau didn't have success in the air last weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

As examined by The42 in an analysis piece on Sunday, Ireland made use of subtle ‘escorting’ lines to slow Folau’s chase of kicks and Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham has since questioned the legality of that tactic.

“I guess it’s in our hands, it’s something that we have to sit down with the referees and discuss,” said Larkham.

“For us, I think it’s two-fold. It’s one, getting the kicks accurate so our chasers aren’t running between two or three guys and then two, bringing it to the referees’ attention just to make sure everything is legal.

“I think if I look at some of the escorting lines or blocking lines that Ireland put in on the weekend, they used two or three players and it seemed quite specific that they were out there trying to impede Israel’s run.

“When you’re starting to put two players in one position, it obviously opens up a lot of space on the field so I’m not too concerned that every other team will copy this because there are certainly downsides to it, but we certainly need clarification before the weekend.”

Frenchman Pascal Gaüzère will referee this weekend’s final Test in Sydney and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is sure to flag the issue with him.

But Ireland have defended themselves and stated that they are happy their play is within the laws of the game.

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“We’ve done nothing that we haven’t done all season,” said Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby in Sydney today.

Escort An example from The42's analysis piece on Sunday. Source: The42

“I just think on the weekend we showed a lot more urgency to get back and support the player receiving the ball, making sure that once that player has caught the ball and landed, that we resource the ruck. I think that was an area where we came off second best in Brisbane.

“There will always be things that the opposition and ourselves feel that we maybe didn’t get the rub of the green on but we’re just asking the players to work incredibly hard to support those guys who are receiving the kick.

“That’s all we did on the weekend, we didn’t feel like we did anything that any other team in the world isn’t doing.”

Number eight CJ Stander echoed his coach’s words, after saying he hadn’t heard about Larkham’s questioning of Ireland’s tactics.

“For us as a team, the main thing is the ball,” said Stander.

“We make sure we get the ball on the first hand and we work towards the ball every time as quickly as we can. If players don’t get behind the ball and make sure we secure the ball, then we’re going to be in trouble.

“Coming from a blocking side, there’s nothing really specific we do from any other week. We’ve always been about making sure we get as close to the ball as we can to maybe get a ricochet or make sure we catch the ball clean.”

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Murray Kinsella

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