Dan Sheridan/INPHO Peter O'Mahony wins a lineout for Ireland.
'We love a maul try' - Ireland's lineout joy timely ahead of Springboks test
The lineout was the key platform for Ireland’s attack against Tonga.

AFTER A FAIR few errors in this area in recent weeks and with a massive challenge coming from South Africa, it was timely for Ireland to have such a strong lineout performance against Tonga last Saturday.

Ireland won 21 of their own 23 throws into the lineout, with the only two losses coming in the closing minutes of the game. One was picked off by Tonga, the other was an overthrow.

There was an overthrow earlier in the game too but Josh van der Flier hoovered it up, while Mack Hansen throwing a quick lineout to himself was also counted in the official lineout success rate of 91%.

It was a resounding statement of precision and determination from Ireland in a department of the game they hadn’t been pleased with recently. There never seemed to be any major panic about their lineout, but Ireland hate the little errors that can be costly at the set-piece.

Forwards coach Paul O’Connell and his players appeared to simplify things for the Tonga clash, regularly using five-man lineouts in which there are obviously fewer moving parts.

The Irish pack delivered high-quality possession for the attack. Indeed, six of Ireland’s eight tries against Tonga started at the lineout. There was an excellent maul try among them.

james-ryan-in-a-lineout Dan Sheridan / INPHO James Ryan wins a lineout. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland also put the Tongan throw under severe pressure, with Tadhg Beirne stealing two of their lineouts and Rob Herring scoring the last Irish try directly from an overthrow. 

“It was good tonight,” said Ireland lineout leader James Ryan after the big win over Tonga.

“We got a little unlucky with a couple of things last week, so we didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything this week, we just trusted what we do well and it came off tonight. We’re delighted.

“We love getting a maul try, we love getting those tries as an Irish pack. We put some decent pressure on their lineout as well so we’re happy enough with how it came out.”

Starting hooker Rónan Kelleher was similarly pleased with Ireland’s excellent lineout display.

“We’ve just been working on a few little tweaks here and there,” said Kelleher. “Not that we’ve been bad, but we’ve been really trying to focus on ourselves.

“Yeah, it was good to see all that work kind of pay off. The forwards did the job to make sure they were max-drilled each time. It made our job a lot easier as hookers.”

It’s all well and good against Tonga, but the challenge for Ireland’s lineout and maul will be on a different planet this weekend in Paris.

pieter-steph-du-toit-claims-a-lineout-ahead-of-jamie-ritchie James Crombie / INPHO South Africa's Pieter-Steph du Toit against Scotland. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The Springboks are superb on both sides of the lineout and maul, with an array of strong set-piece forwards. They’re also one the most destructive scrummaging sides in the world.

“They’re probably the best in the world,” said O’Connell of the Springboks’ lineout defence.

“They’re pretty good, they’re pretty good, so it’ll be a good challenge next week.”

Ireland’s players know it’s going to be nothing like last time out, even if the Tonga win adds to their belief.

“It was one of our better performances for a while,” said Ryan. “I think it will give us confidence, but it’s a whole different level next week.

“Obviously they have a very strong set-piece; line-out and scrum. It’s kind of their DNA.

“Defensively, huge linespeed, more pressure. They’re kind of a pressure-based team, they try to get after teams in as many parts of the game as possible, so our biggest challenge for a long time.”

Indeed, Ryan believes Ireland might have to go beyond previous peak performances against New Zealand last summer and France in this year’s Six Nations to beat the Boks.

“We’re going to have to be as good, if not better, in terms of our performances in those games to get a result, so it’s exciting.”

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