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Killer makes his mark, Farrell falls down midfield pecking order

Who stood out for you?

IRELAND GOT BACK to winning ways in Cardiff, but with Joe Schmidt set to name his 31-man World Cup squad tomorrow. Here are the men who appeared to move in the pecking order, standing out for better or worse.

Winners

Dave Kilcoyne

The Munster prop’s joie de vivre off the pitch, counterbalanced against his 5kg trimming-down under a player-specific training programme a couple of years ago, has seen him caught somewhere between Joe Schmidt’s good and bad books in the latter half of this World Cup cycle. But Kilcoyne was a freight train on a day when Ireland needed to start motoring.

hallam-amos-tackled-by-dave-kilcoyne Dave Kilcoyne makes an impact. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

31 metres gained (Conan was the next-best forward with eight), two clean breaks, five defenders beaten, and an offload thrown in there for good measure. The borderline maniacal Kilcoyne also made nine tackles, almost all of which were rib-rattlers as he surely booked his seat on the plane to Japan.

Andrew Conway

Though he wasn’t quite as sizzling during a second half in which Ireland tightened things up and often found themselves on the backfoot, the Munster wing produced a statement first stanza in which he scythed through the Welsh rearguard to set up Jacob Stockdale’s opener.

Conway made a team-high 81 metres, beat five defenders and would have had a second-half try of his own had Jack Carty’s skip pass not drifted a yard forward before reaching him in the right-hand corner.

andrew-conway-scores-a-try-that-was-disallowed Source: James Crombie/INPHO

His overall performance may be overblown in retrospect but this was more so an assured display sprinkled with a few moments of brilliance, which in effect was the personification of what Ireland were looking for in Cardiff.

Bundee Aki

The Connacht midfielder earned further separation from Farrell in the centre pecking order with a high-octane display. Aki was central to most of the positives produced by Ireland’s backline, carrying hard but usually with his head up as he sought to release support runners wherever it was on.

bundee-aki-makes-a-break Bundee Aki on the burst in Cardiff. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

He chalked up 52 metres without making a clean break, which gives a picture as to how impactful he was on the gainline — an area in which Ireland struggled so desperately in London last weekend. There were also two spillages and two penalties conceded, but he can’t really be blamed for one of those penalties, wherein he committed to a tackle only for the receiving James Davies to jump on the spot upon catching the ball.

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Chris Farrell

Schmidt has been blessed with resources in the centre and it has almost seemed as though, whatever injuries come, the four leading options have been inter-changeable.

Farrell’s physicality and athletic power make him a formidable weapon for any side, but today in Cardiff he just could not find the form he wanted to deliver a day out from squad selection.

chris-farrell-and-jack-carty Farrell with Carty post-match. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Bundee Aki was superb at 12, where Farrell did well against Italy, and Garry Ringrose has been anointed as the versatile centre. So, presuming Robbie Henshaw is fit and firing next weekend, Farrell appears to dwell as the fourth choice in midfield and in the most danger of missing out on the plane to Japan.

Jack McGrath

We spoke above about the big shift put in by Dave Kilcoyne, and the man who will bear the brunt of that performance is Ulster prop Jack McGrath.

The Dubliner wasn’t the only man underperforming in Twickenham last weekend and he is unfortunate that the make-up of a 31-man squad leaves only two spots for dedicated looseheads. McGrath has impressed time and again over the years and has embroiled Cian Healy in absorbing battles for the number 1 shirt with club and country. But Kilcoyne’s explosive display makes him a must-have at the World Cup.

Dave Kearney

Back three spaces are at a premium and Kearney was given a full half to stake one last, late claim to make a second World Cup squad. But while Andrew Conway sparkled and Will Addison showed glimpses of what he can bring as a utility option, Kearney struggled to make an impact while being shifted from fullback to wing and looked culpable for Owen Lane’s second-half try.

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