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How we rated Ireland as they put 50 points on Canada

Joe Schmidt’s Rugby World Cup got off to a flier.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Rob Kearney: 7

A solid day out. Made good decisions all  game long, none more so than the quick pass to Earls to stretch the Canada defence late on and was rewarded with a return pass after Earls had attracted the remaining defenders.

Dave Kearney: 7

Took his try very well in the first half. He’s perhaps even more effective in tougher games as he showed in Twickenham.

Jared Payne: 8

Aside from the the ill-advised chip in to DTH van der Merwe’s grateful hands, the Ulster fullback-turned centre had an excellent game  in midfield. Unlucky not to earn a try minutes before he gave one away, but his eventual dive under the posts was richly deserved.

Luke Fitzgerald: 7

Not the toughest test of his abilities in the centre, but with Payne chipping in at the breakdown, Fitzgerald rediscovered his handling skills to contribute to a fluid Irish attack in the first half.

Keith Earls: 8

Showed tremendous poise to pick out the inside pass for Rob Kearney’s try. Also displayed an impressive sense of physicality. Running past defenders is no longer his only option, he can shrug off tackles too.

Jonathan Sexton runs in for their third try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Johnny Sexton: 9

Played like a man possessed at times, and that’s exactly when he’s at his best. Embodied Ireland’s entire first half approach with crisp passing, aggressive running lines and, of course, tries. In the second half he was in cruise mode, putting the icing on a terrific display with some pin-point kicks from hand. Man of the match in the stadium despite playing just 55 minutes.

Conor Murray: 8

Set the tone for Ireland’s attacking ethos with a swift snipe down the blindside after a powerful scrum. Passing was flawless while his box-kicking was used only sporadically, but was hugely effective.

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Jack McGrath: 8

Cian Healy made his comeback today, but he needs some big performances to dislodge the number one. McGrath was superb in the set-piece and the loose again today.

Rory Best: 7

Provided a perfect leach to help Iain Henderson get over the try-line and was his usual clinical self around the breakdown.

Mike Ross: 7

One of the unsung heroes of Sean O’Brien’s try off the back of the maul and provided the regular solid base for the scrum.

Iain Henderson: 9

Used his athleticism to good effect around the park at key times and then showed excellent technique to step back and power in to a low drive across the try-line. Was by far the most impressive side in the second half, relishing every contact to the extent that Canadian defenders were visibly hesitant to tackle him.

Paul O’Connell: 8

A contentious sin-bin shouldn’t take away from his performance. On another day, with another captain, Ireland might have asked for the TMO to judge a few of O’Connell’s first-half adventures over the try-line. Ensured the line-out kept ticking over and never came close to getting embroiled in his history with Jamie Cudmore.

Peter O’Mahony: 7

Kept popping up in the back-line during that excellent first half and never stopped working to disrupt Canadian breakdowns. Was a valuable option at the line-out too and showed his intelligence when Canada attempted not to engage with a maul, he took the ball on himself.

Sean O’Brien: 7

A constant source of go-forward ball and gainlines. Behind all the thrilling flowing rugby on display from Ireland, it’s good to see him approaching full fitness again.

Jamie Heaslip: 8

Ireland’s top tackler (with 13, two ahead of Henderson) and  provided the work-rate you always expect from him and even managed to make a big second half break when the red jerseys failed to put him down.

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