Chris Henry and Conor Murray congratulate Paddy Jackson on his first Ireland try. INPHO/Dan Sheridan
mauled to death

Schmidt’s ruthless desire sets up championship decider at Twickenham – Adrian Flavin

The former Connacht and Wolfhounds hooker also has words of criticism for Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips.

WHAT IMPRESSED ME most about Ireland’s win over Wales was the accuracy and intensity they showed for the entire 80 minutes. There was no let off whatsoever, even when the subs came on in the final quarter.

Ireland started like men possessed and kept it going and going and going. There will be a lot of sore bodies today but, after a performance like that, you don’t really care. There has been a huge amount of strength and conditioning work carried out since last year’s Six Nations but the best thing many of the guys can do now is relax for a day or two. They can get their R&R in down in Clonmel and come back all guns blazing for the England game.

The idea Ireland have taken into this championship is that if you are going to do something, do it right. Joe Schmidt brings with him a ruthless desire to do things properly. His attention to detail is second to none and it has really raised Ireland’s standards.

I did not expect them to use the rolling maul as much as they did against Scotland but after the first one went well I’m sure they though ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The psychological damage those mauls can have on a team are huge. For eight guys to get driven back, consistently, concede scores and have to give up penalties is hugely frustrating. The backs see this too and it plants a seed of doubt about their teammates’ abilities. Ireland kept at them and never gave them a chance to recover.

They switched up the mauls too. It wasn’t always the catch and straight drive. They often shifted the point of attack. For Chris Henry’s try, Devin Toner caught it near the back but there was a swift transference of power to the front of the line that caught Wales on the hop. They went to blitz where Toner was but the ball was back in the 5m channel and Ireland drove over.

Wales were clearly rattled and I don’t know what [scrum-half] Mike Phillips was up to out there. I don’t know what he went into the game to achieve but he managed to annoy the 29 other players, the touch judges and Wayne Barnes. He only came alive in the final minute when Liam Williams hit Paddy Jackson with that cheap shot. If Phillips had concentrate on the other 80 minutes as much as he did trying to find himself a fight near the end then maybe Wales wouldn’t have found themselves in so much trouble.

YouTube credit: RBS 6 Nations

Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony were fired up but still managed to do their jobs. At one point, Phillips pushed an Irish player over and ran back with the ball. It was for a Welsh scrum. What was he going to do, take a quick scrum put-in? He is one of Wales’ leading players and he wasn’t at the races. He baffled me. When he got his yellow card [on 79 minutes] I thought ‘Well done’. How did he help his team? He annoyed other players, played poorly and got a yellow card. I can’t imagine that was on his pre-match goals list.

Wales were flat throughout and completely out of ideas. They seemed to be targeting the Irish midfield as a weak spot. I played U19 and U21 with Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy. They may be as old as I am now but when any team targets D’Arcy and O’Driscoll as weaknesses, you tell them they would need to do more analysis.

imageThe world’s most capped midfield Test partnership. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ireland kicked the ball 46 times from play and some of the high balls Rob Kearney fielded were amazing. Andrew Trimble stood out, too, in broken field and looked very dangerous. The amount of work O’Mahony went through was unreal. He didn’t make double figures for carries or tackles but every one he did make was effective. To me, that is better than making 17 average tackles. Jonny Sexton bossed it and did what a 10 does. He was the quarterback, talking all the time, giving out to D’Arcy and setting up plays.

The England and Scotland game was appalling. I don’t know the situation with Scottish rugby at present but some of their players haven’t stepped up. England are in a good place and rolled over Scotland in dire playing conditions.

Their line-speed is massive and they contest every breakdown. England have some big hitters in Joe Launchbury, Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes. This could well be the Six Nations decider though both teams would be wise to look no further than Twickenham.

@adrianflavin played 159 times for Connacht between 2006 and 2013 and earned two Ireland Wolfhounds caps.

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