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Dublin: 15 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020

5 players who stood out in Ireland's scrappy win over Scotland

Sean O’Brien, Jack Conan, Jared Payne and Simon Zebo were the pick of the Irish.

JOE SCHMIDT’S IRELAND beat Scotland 28-22 in their second World Cup warm-up match this afternoon.

Read our match report here.

Simon Zebo

Man of the match from fullback and a constant source of energy. The Munster man picked out a superb line for his second-half try, arriving with ideal timing to take Ian Madigan’s understanding inside pass.

Simon Zebo with Peter Horne Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There were other darts of acceleration as Zebo showed that familiar ability to beat defenders on the outside shoulder, although Schmidt will likely highlight a pair of loose passes and another occasion on which the fullback might have hit Luke Fitzgerald.

Excellent in the air and more than willing to contribute in the rucks when called upon to do so, this was a strong showing from the 25-year-old as he proved his versatility.

Out on the left wing, Luke Fitzgerald mixed some poor moments with markers of his attacking quality and his third international try was satisfying.

Sean O’Brien

Clearly motivated by captaining his country for the first time at this level, O’Brien was highly effective at the breakdown. Although wearing the number eight shirt, the Tullow man was a classic openside with at least four brilliant turnovers.

Sean O'Brien Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

While the likes of David Pocock and Richie McCaw have shown their breakdown quality in the Southern Hemisphere in recent times, O’Brien’s first game of the season allowed him to demonstrate that he too will be one of the leading proponents at the World Cup.

Didn’t get as many opportunities to carry the ball in space as perhaps would have been ideal, but his muscular display was encouraging.

Jack Conan

Making his international debut and repositioned on the blindside, Conan went about his business without fuss and showed he belongs at this level. He handed one early turnover penalty to O’Brien with his clever work on the ground and always looked to slow ball.

Jack Conan with Fraser Brown Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The burst of footwork and offload to Chris Henry in the lead-up to Sean Cronin’s maul try showed Conan has a skillset to match his athletic ability, while he carried powerfully in tight areas.

Defensively, the Leinster man got through what looked to be a pile of work, tackling with glee and working hard to keep shape around him. A promising start to what should be a long international career for the 23-year-old.

A word too for Chris Henry, who showed a massive work rate.

Jared Payne

Far from a glamorous display by Ireland’s first-choice outside centre, but Payne was quietly efficient in all aspects. He will need more game time in the next two warm-up fixtures to be at his very best for the World Cup, though this is a good starting point.

Richie Vernon and Jared Payne Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Defensively, Payne was strong in his decision making, hitting high and targeting the ball at times, but also not afraid to stand off, drift and then complete low tackles. The Ulsterman also looked to be competitive post-tackle whenever possible.

Payne didn’t get as many touches of the ball as he thrives, but he ran hard when on the ball and made yards in the midfield. A handful of solid passes rounded out a good first display from the 13.

Ian Madigan

The out-half was strong off the tee as always, missing just the one penalty, while his cross-field kick for Luke Fitzgerald was possibly the most aesthetically-pleasing and skillful moment of the game.

Simon Zebo and Ian Madigan celebrate Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Like Zebo, Madigan might reflect on errors that he can work on, including one restart that flew directly into touch and a pair of missed tackles. However, the positives greatly outweighed those minor mishaps and Madigan repaid Schmidt’s faith in him as an out-half.

The inside passes to Dave Kearney and Zebo were reminders of Madigan’s vision in attack, while he threw a couple of other peaches during the 80 minutes. Still vying with Paddy Jackson for the second out-half slot, this was a solid outing.

Which Irish players impressed you?

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Murray Kinsella

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