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Analysis: Quinn Roux's big impact and all of Ireland's second Test rucks

We’ve studied the rucks from Ireland’s defeat to the Boks in Johannesburg.

WHY THE HELL did Joe Schmidt pick Quinn Roux? What does he do?

Those were some of the questions buzzing around Irish rugby circles last week when the Ireland coach named the South African-born lock in his starting XV to face the Springboks.

Ireland’s Quinn Roux Roux made his Ireland debut last weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Schmidt pointed to the scrums. Roux stepped up muscularly in that area in Johannesburg last weekend, providing real grunt behind tighthead Tadhg Furlong to keep Tendai Mtawarira quiet and even get on top at certain points.

Roux picked off a South African lineout in the ninth minute of his Test debut, taking advantage of a miscommunication from the Boks, although the lack of Ireland ball out of touch – they had just five lineouts – meant he was largely limited to lifting otherwise.

Roux carried the ball just once for a return of no metres gained and made all five of his tackles, so what else kept him busy?

We know that Schmidt is a ruck-focused coach. Like all the best in the business, he places a huge emphasis on winning the battle on the deck and ensuring his team can play with quality ruck possession, as well as disrupt the opposition.

With that in mind, the rucks are a perfect place to look for further evidence of what Schmidt felt Roux could bring to the party for Ireland.

An analysis of every ruck in the defeat to the Boks at Ellis Park shows that Roux was Ireland’s most effective ruck player. He was also the busiest, despite being replaced in the 51st minute.

For those who need to catch up on what we mark in our ruck analyses, scroll to the bottom of last week’s article.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt has high standards at ruck time. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Roux had a team-leading 25 ruck actions last weekend. Far more impressive was his utter effectiveness with the majority of those contributions. Roux hit rucks with an aggression and decisiveness that many of his teammates could not match.

25 is a low leading total, of course, but Ireland had only 40% of possession in this game and kicked the ball from hand 30 times. As a result, there were relatively few attacking rucks for their players to hit and so the totals were relatively low across the board.

Roux’s biggest impression at ruck time was as on second arrival, a role he filled eight times. He made a truly outstanding three dominant hits and four effective clearouts as that second man in. 

The 25-year-old was superb arriving to rucks where the first Irish player in was struggling to fully clear South Africans away. With excellent acceleration over the last two steps before rucking, while still controlling himself, Roux often blasted the defenders clear.

There were also two effective actions as first arrival and a further pair as third man in from Roux. He also managed to slow South African attacking ball once with a powerful counter ruck, as well as looking to do similar with two defensive presents.

All in all, this was a superb ruck outing for Roux on what was a very solid debut. Schmidt’s selection was vindicated.

Trimble’s highlight

The most memorable single clearout of Ireland’s performance, however, was Andrew Trimble’s to lay the final platform for Devin Toner’s first-half try.

Trimble

The Ulsterman’s intelligent flick back infield off the touchline – having already pressured Lwazi Mvovo into an error with his kick chase and leap off the ground – has understandably earned more admiring discussion in the aftermath of last weekend.

But Schmidt is likely to have taken far greater pleasure in Trimble’s clearout on Pieter-Steph du Toit immediately after that dextrous showing.

The right wing slammed in for a dominant hit as first arrival to blast du Toit away from his apparent opportunity to slow or spoil the Irish ball after Jared Payne was grounded.

Trimble was not faultless at ruck time across his total of eight ruck actions – Ireland had some issues with first arrivals getting slightly beyond the tackle and therefore not being in strong positions to hammer defenders away – but his off-the-ball work was excellent again.

Front-row fire

The nature of this game and the fact that Ireland did not attempt to play expansively with ball in hand meant their front row players were actually slightly busier at ruck time than the back rows.

Contributing handsomely to the rucks is nothing new for Ireland’s big units, with Jack McGrath following up an excellent Test with another busy outing that saw him top the first arrivals charts with eight hits as the first man in.

The loosehead prop, who had a total of 21 ruck actions, is fast becoming indispensable and is one of Ireland’s very best players.

Ireland’s Rory Best Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Captain Rory Best is another who loves to contribute in the tight and he earned the turnover that has become a regular part of his game among his 21 total ruck actions.

Tighthead Furlong, meanwhile, showed Schmidt and his coaching staff that he is more than ready to start Tests regularly with a strong set-piece showing.

On top of that, he backed up a hungry ruck display off the bench in the first Test with 22 contributions in Ellis Park, four of them effective clearouts.

The regulars

Toner was his usual effective self at ruck time in Johannesburg, with an impressive five effective clearouts as first man on scene. He was as busy was ever cleaning up the bits and pieces as second and third man in too, contributing a total of 24 ruck actions.

Elsewhere, Rhys Ruddock was first arrival only three times for aforementioned reasons but he did look to compete defensively with six present markings. The Leinster man does perhaps need to be slightly better at identifying his opportunities to target opposition ball, but his work-rate is always big.

Number eight Jamie Heaslip was particularly visible in defence, with one turnover assist, as well as two slowing markings and a present.

Craig Gilroy on the left wing warrants a mention, even if he only had seven ruck actions in total. The Ulsterman’s return to Test rugby was convincing and his three effective first arrivals were somewhat typical of an unfussy and quietly effective display.

Ireland’s Craig Gilroy Gilroy had a good return to Test rugby. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Off the bench, Donnacha Ryan had the most opportunity to make an impact and looked to take up Roux’s mantle with six ruck contributions. Ireland were defending for the majority of his time on the pitch, of course, and one slowing marking and a present reflect that.

Slips

After a first Test in which Ireland earned just two ineffective ruck marks, they had 10 against the Boks in Johannesburg. That such a big leap occurred even with fewer Irish attacking rucks to resource will have been a concern.

There were mountains of excellent ruck work again from Ireland, as there always is, but the slip in quality in this area matches the disappointing elements of Ireland’s defence and a handful of other errors that proved costly in test Two.

The defeat itself will obviously have served to focus Irish minds ahead of this final decisive Test in Port Elizabeth, but Schmidt’s men are always performance-centred.

Those additional eight ineffective rucks, or whatever their own attribution systems signifies, will not sit easily with Ireland.

In the last game of the season on Saturday, they will look for their best ruck performance yet.

First arrivals

Jack McGrath Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jack McGrath – 6 effective, 2 guard

Devin Toner – 5 effective, 1 guard

Rory Best – 4 effective, 1 guard, 1 present

Iain Henderson – 4 effective, 1 guard

Tadhg Furlong – 3 effective, 1 guard, 1 present

Andrew Trimble – 1 dominant, 2 effective, 2 ineffective

Robbie Henshaw – 1 effective, 1 guard, 1 present, 1 ineffective

Stuart Olding – 1 effective, 2 guard, 1 ineffective

Craig Gilroy – 3 effective

Quinn Roux – 2 effective, 1 guard

Jared Payne – 1 effective, 2 guard

Rhys Ruddock – 1 effective, 1 guard, 1 ineffective

Donnacha Ryan – 1 effective, 1 present, 1 ineffective

Conor Murray – 2 effective

Paddy Jackson – 1 effective, 1 guard

Richardt Strauss – 1 effective

Finlay Bealham – 1 effective

Jamie Heaslip – 1 ineffective

Second arrivals

Jamie Heaslip Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

10 Jamie Heaslip – 3 effective, 6 guard, 1 present

Devin Toner – 1 dominant, 3 effective, 5 guard

Quinn Roux – 3 dominant, 4 effective, 1 present

Rhys Ruddock – 2 effective, 4 guard

Rory Best – 1 effective, 4 guard, 1 present

Tadhg Furlong – 1 effective, 3 guard, 1 ineffective

Jack McGrath – 3 guard, 1 present

Robbie Henshaw – 3 guard

Iain Henderson – 2 guard, 1 present

Stuart Olding – 1 guard, 1 present

Craig Gilroy – 1 guard, 1 ineffective

Jared Payne – 1 effective

Sean Reidy – 1 effective

Dave Kilcoyne – 1 effective

Paddy Jackson – 1 effective

Andrew Trimble – 1 guard

Third arrivals

Springboks Pieter Steph du Toit  is tackled by Ireland’s Devin Toner and Tadhg Furlong Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Devin Toner – 1 effective, 7 guard

Quinn Roux – 2 effective, 3 guard, 1 present, 1 ineffective

Tadhg Furlong – 6 guard, 1 present

Jack McGrath – 1 effective, 5 guard

Iain Henderson – 5 guard, 1 present

Jamie Heaslip – 4 guard

Rhys Ruddock – 1 effective, 1 guard, 1 present

Dave Kilcoyne – 1 effective, 1 present

2 Rory Best – 2 guard

Robbie Henshaw – 2 guard

Finlay Bealham – 1 guard

Andrew Trimble – 1 guard

Craig Gilroy – 1 guard

Stuart Olding – 1 guard

Defensive efforts

Ireland’s Rhys Ruddock Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Rhys Ruddock – 6 present

Jamie Heaslip – 1 turnover assist, 2 slowing, 1 present

Rory Best – 1 turnover, 3 present

Iain Henderson – 1 turnover, 2 present

Quinn Roux – 1 slowing, 2 present

Sean Reidy – 3 present

Donnacha Ryan – 1 slowing, 1 present

Richardt Strauss – 1 slowing, 1 present

Jared Payne – 2 present

Paddy Jackson – 2 present

Jack McGrath – 1 slowing

Andrew Trimble – 1 slowing

Conor Murray – 1 slowing

Tadhg Furlong – 1 present

Robbie Henshaw – 1 present

Stuart Olding – 1 present

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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