Keith Earls on fire and more talking points from Ireland's win in Wembley

The back three competition has moved to another level, while Ireland finished off a fatigued Romania.

Murray Kinsella reports from Wembley

IRELAND BEAT ROMANIA 44-10 in front of a World Cup record crowd of 89,267 at Wembley.

Keith Earls

The left wing equalled Brian O’Driscoll’s record of seven World Cup tries for Ireland with this brace against Romania and he simmered with threat every time the ball was in his vicinity.

Keith Earls scores their second try Earls bagged a brace and was named man of the match. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Earls’ sheer acceleration and top-end pace are major attributes, as we saw for his first finish from Simon Zebo’s superb long pass. Earls made an excellent aerial take for Tommy Bowe’s score in the first half too and defended superbly.

There was a brief scare when he left the pitch for a Head Injury Assessment, the concern a clear marker of how important he looks like being for Ireland in the World Cup.

The back three competition is fierce, but a powered up Earls is the prime candidate to keep his left wing spot moving forward.

Back three depth

Zebo and Bowe were also among the standout players, the latter putting his recent poor form behind him to finish his two tries wonderfully well. This looked like the Tommy Bowe of old.

Tommy Bowe scores a try Bowe finished well for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Big wins under the high ball were more characteristic than the missed tackles in Twickenham. Dave Kearney looks first-choice on the right wing, but Bowe has at least upped the ante.

Zebo allows Ireland to play with more width when he is located at fullback, acting as a second passer in the backline and so often taking the ball behind a screening pod of forward runners.

On top of the creative skills there is his athletic ability, the sort of pace that almost allowed him in for an early try. The footballing dribble down that left touchline, though unsuccessful, showed the breadth of his skillset too.

Rob Kearney strode off the bench to score a try from Zebo’s pass, the only lasting concern was to see Kearney injured when finishing. He limped off, but Schmidt still has a depth of quality to choose from in his back three.

Fringe players impress

Aside from those back three players, there were a host of other encouraging individual showings against what as admittedly poor opposition. Chris Henry at openside flanker was an influential presence at the breakdown and with his excellent support lines.

Chris Henry 'Chad' was superb for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Similarly, hooker Richardt Strauss was superb on the deck, winning three steals for Ireland and tackling ferociously. His battle with Sean Cronin for the bench role is very much alive.

Devin Toner did the lineout, maul and defence basics well, as was his wont before a poor showing in Twickenham, while Donnacha Ryan was as energetic and contact-hungry as ever.

Cian Healy showed an understandable rustiness, but the loosehead prop was full of desire to make an impact and his 54 minutes will stand to him in the coming weeks. A word too for scrum-half Eoin Reddan, who whipped the ball away accurately.

First-half attack counts

An 18-3 half-time lead against the 17th-ranked team in world rugby might not have been the most impressive, but the good work Ireland did in that opening 40 minutes paid off after the interval.

What are they
really like?

Rare insights on sport's biggest names from the writers who know them best. Listen to Behind the Lines podcast.

Become a Member

Rob Kearney scores their fifth try Kearney scored off Zebo's pass. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Romania fatigued badly in the final quarter, as Bowe, Kearney and Henry all crossed for tries. There was real width on Ireland’s first-half attack again, as they moved the ball through the hands of forwards and out the back door to Zebo or another back.

Schmidt will certainly point to instances where Ireland were too lateral with the ball, one example coming when Bowe managed to finish in the right corner even after those inside had failed to fix defenders as well as they might have.

In the second half, Ireland struck from set-piece with more intent, the loop play for Bowe’s second a fine example and the intricate movement in midfield for Kearney’s particularly standing out.

Ireland played with a similar game plan to what we saw against Canada, but it will be most fascinating to see how much of this blueprint Ireland retain against France later in the pool.

Schmidt never satisfied

The late concession of the Ovidiu Tonita try will rankle with Schmidt and Les Kiss, when it looked as though Ireland were heading for a clean sheet in terms of tries.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt will pick out the flaws. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Indeed, there were inaccurate patches in Ireland’s performance, particularly before the half-time break and just after Keith Earls’ second score early in the second. A handful of loose kicks and a loss of structure on occasions will be picked out by Schmidt.

With his thirst for perfection remaining undiminished, the Ireland head coach is also likely to point to a trio of missed try-scoring possibilities when his side got to within five metres of the Romanian tryline.

But six tries, another bonus-point win and several strong performances after so many changes to the XV are undoubted positives.

Anything else would have been worrying, but Ireland’s strong start to the World Cup was copper fastened in front of a World Cup record crowd.

‘We all bought in’ – Owen Farrell says England backed Robshaw’s decision

The Wallabies wrapped up their bonus point within 31 minutes against Uruguay

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next: