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James Crombie/INPHO Conway rises with Blair Kinghorn on Saturday.
# thrill of the chase
'Under Joe, there was no hoping': O'Gara wants more from Ireland's contestable kicks
The La Rochelle boss was disappointed with the chase on Jacob Stockdale’s side of the field against Scotland.

NOT ALWAYS POPULAR, but often highly effective. The reflections exchanged by Joe Schmidt and the box kick was on many a mind after Ireland’s laboured win over Scotland on Saturday.

The up-and-unders taken on by Conor Murray came in for particular scrutiny after later John Cooney efforts were more closely-contested by Andrew Conway.

“The kick is as good as the chase,” says Ronan O’Gara, who has leaned towards his former team-mate in the main selection debate surrounding Andy Farrell’s team. And he notes that the Garryowens on Jacob Stockdale’s left wing in particular seemed to wind up with a poorer chase.

“There would be 9s taking the rap for box-kicking but… I understand if it’s a skill execution (error), that relies on the number 9. But if it’s in the zone and there to be attacked and you don’t get it, then I can guarantee you that the coach has a better idea of how to use the ball (than kicking it away).”

While Schmidt’s team was derided by Eddie Jones for their ‘kick and clap’ style, when they clinically executed Ireland could make the direct tactic look like an art form.

“We’ve gone a little bit backwards in terms of watching and hoping. Under Joe, there was no hoping. You’re getting the ball,” says O’Gara, now head coach with La Rochelle.

Always in Irish rugby, even going back to my day, you box kick to get the ball back, you don’t box kick to have a look.

“So I would say that would be pretty hard message in camp this week. Because if you win the ball, you have a completely unsettled defence in front of you which gives you great potential to either play here or play there, go narrow or wide.

“The opposite is true if you lose the ball, it’s unstructured attack for the opposition.”

“Essentially you’re kicking to contest to get it back. If they didn’t think they’d get it back, I think they’d say “let’s kick it 60 metres”.

conor-murray-takes-a-box-kick Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Long-range kicking could be a feature of this Saturday’s clash with Wales if Wayne Pivac’s side continue to fill their front line defence and leave Leigh Halfpenny alone in the back-field.

In that case, there will be room for more players across the back-line such as Conway, Jordan Larmour and Robbie Henshaw to take some onus off the half-back pairing and pick out timely opportunities to turn the Welsh around.

“There’s a huge workload on him, a huge responsibility,” O’Gara says of captain and chief playmaker Jonathan Sexton, “he’s created that for himself too with his performances. 

“It’s a big ask and you need the five other backs stepping up this week. They have to take a lot of responsibility in attack. Johnny will always be hugely prepared. He has huge presence, but what really helps the 10 is the communication on the run from the backs.

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shane-williams-and-ronan-ogara Bryan Keane / INPHO Ronan O’Gara and Shane Williams Host The Second GUINNESS SIX NATIONS Experience Ahead of Ireland vs Wales. Find out more at Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“That’s where I think Ireland have (room for) a fair bit of growth in their game. I think they can scan and get their opportunities.

“Especially against Wales with 13 people in the front line. There’ll be kicking opportunities. It mightn’t be from Johnny, it could be from shifting it one or two channels wider because Halfpenny’s in the back-field on his own.”

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