Garry Ringrose offloads to Johnny Sexton in Cardiff. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Picture perfect

Ireland players pragmatic as they chase the space in attack

‘The hard part in international rugby is creating the chances and we’ve done that.’

TWO OF IRELAND’S key attacking decision-makers moved to defend their playing style today as they prepared to face Italy after back-to-back Six Nations defeats.

Though Andy Farrell’s side came remarkably close to beating Wales with 14 men in the opening round and were without Jonathan Sexton in the loss to France, a year into the new regime performances remain underwhelming.

For many, the big disappointment is the absence of obvious attacking ideas in a side that set out 14 months ago to give players a license to ‘play it as they see it’.

Speaking yesterday, attack coach Mike Catt reiterated that the onus was on the players to execute and turn opportunities into openings.

The players are on the same hymn sheet, pleading the case that playing ‘off the cuff’ doesn’t automatically translate to an expansive approach.

“There is no one way of winning a game. Ultimately, you have to play to where the space is,” says Garry Ringrose.

“If that is behind (using) the kicking game, or if they are filling the front line with width it is to go through them and not try to be too expansive. If they are narrow then there will be spaces on the edges to attack.

“So the intention is still there. The decision-making process on and around the ball, what pictures we are seeing to influence that…”

‘Seeing the picture’ is this squad’s ‘fine margins’.

“If we’d done one or two things better in a couple of the games then that breaks the game and would show statistics that might paint a different picture.

“It’s seeing the picture and (showing) intent to do what you’re saying is the challenge for us all in the moment.”

Perhaps for the first time in his career, Ringrose was asked if he has confidence in his head coach’s gameplan. He does. And he stresses the need to improve on-field communication between players.

From captain Jonathan Sexton’s vantage point, the attack is close to clicking.

“The hard part in international rugby is creating the chances and we’ve done that,” says the out-half.

“I don’t think this group has lost confidence. It certainly didn’t feel like that today, We are all looking forward to trying to finish this campaign on a high.”

In all likelihood, Ireland will return to winning ways against Italy this weekend and, if their October Six Nations meeting is anything to go by, they will silence a few critiques of their playing style against the Azzurri too. How they fare then against England and Scotland in the latter rounds will leave a more lasting impression of how Ireland have progressed under Farrell.

Whatever the opposition, Ringrose is willing to remain pragmatic when it comes to sniffing out the chances.

“You do back yourself based on the pictures you might see, but it shouldn’t take away from where you see the space.

“You never want to go into a game and overplay against any opposition and gamble and come out the wrong side of it.

“Winning is the goal for us, it’s finding the best and most effective way to do that.”

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