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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 27 January 2021
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Breakdown problems high on Ireland's agenda ahead of Georgia clash

England dominated in this area last weekend at Twickenham.

England celebrate a turnover against Ireland.
England celebrate a turnover against Ireland.
Image: Craig Mercer/INPHO

ONE CAN IMAGINE Joe Schmidt tearing his hair out watching some of Ireland’s ruck work against England last weekend.

Eddie Jones’ side were excellent in this area and certainly benefited from a few favourable refereeing decisions, but Ireland simply weren’t good enough in their clearout efforts.

They conceded eight penalties at the attacking breakdown as England’s jackals made hay, with the first and second arriving Irish players too often failing to make an impact on the defender over the ball.

At other times, Ireland actually over-committed to the breakdown as England stood off, therefore ensuring that the English defence had them outnumbered for the ensuing phase of attack.

Unsurprisingly, Andy Farrell’s men have been casting a critical eye over their breakdown work at Twickenham.

“Credit to England, they defended really well,” said captain James Ryan. “Obviously, they kicked a lot and off those kicks, they put us under massive pressure on that next phase. In terms of turnovers, probably urgency is a big thing.

“We’ve got to be there earlier and see threats. Another thing is probably in our carry – we were a bit high at times, we were a bit chesty.

“I think if we drop the height it will allow us to be able to absorb those impacts a bit better and make the job of the barrels [the first two arriving players] much easier because if we’re not getting hit back, if we’re going forward, I think our ruck would be much stronger as a result.”

Ryan went on to highlight that the ruck is “an area that’s been traditionally a very strong aspect of our game,” so it’s clear that Ireland are intent on getting back to those previous levels.

Whether it’s case of Ireland letting their detail slip in the post-Schmidt era or simply England giving them a harsh reminder of what it takes against the very best teams in the world, Farrell’s men must improve.

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As for the much-discussed sloppiness of Ireland’s set-piece, Ryan refutes the suggestion that the detail has slipped in that area too and backed them to get on top of things after a poor day in Twickenham.

“In terms of the set-piece, I don’t think things have slipped,” said Ryan.

“It’s kind of a combination of things, whether we need to simplify the menu at times or whether we need a bit more variety, so there’s a couple of things but certainly in terms of the detail – that was spot on all week and it’s not something that we would say is wrong.

“I thought that game gave us an understanding of where we’re at in terms of our ruck and our set-piece.”

Ryan captains Ireland again this weekend with Johnny Sexton remaining sidelined and hopes to see his team deliver on their analysis this week.

“Probably putting into place some of the things that we need to be better at and some of the things we’ve learned from the weekend is what would constitute a good result for us,” said Ryan.

“There’s probably a few guys who are going to get an opportunity as well.

“I think we’re actually looking forward to it. We trained with loads of energy, loads of positivity.

“We’ve two more weeks now to finish on a real high note before we go off to our own provinces, so we’re just enjoying our time with each other. We’re enjoying playing for Ireland and it’s another opportunity for us this week to put in a result that we can be really happy with.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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