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Jackman: We have to stop blaming individuals and look at Ireland's defensive system

‘All of our back three have had really difficult moments, and they’re moments that don’t show up as much in high-pressure games for their provinces.’

Jacob Stockdale looks dejected after Ireland's defeat in Paris.
Jacob Stockdale looks dejected after Ireland's defeat in Paris.
Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

AFTER A SERIES of defensive errors, among other things, put paid to Ireland’s chances of an unlikely Six Nations championship at the Stade de France last Saturday night, former Ireland hooker and The42 Rugby Weekly analyst Bernard Jackman believes it’s time to look beyond individual mistakes such as Jacob Stockdale’s and question within a wider context why Ireland’s back three looks so vulnerable in comparison to international teams boasting a similar calibre of player.

Speaking on today’s podcast — available for free on podcasts apps and Spotify — Jackman cited a couple of France’s scores as merely further evidence of confusion at 11, 14 and 15, and the latest disastrous instalment of a pattern of such lapses which have cost Ireland dearly in major fixtures over the past two years.

In conversation with The42′s Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey, who along with Jackman dissected the game as well as the fallout from Johnny Sexton’s reaction to being substituted last Saturday, the former Grenoble and Dragons head coach said that it was time to “stop blaming the individuals and look at the system.”

“Robbie Henshaw had a very difficult day against England at fullback,” Jackman said in relation to the 2019 Six Nations opener in Dublin, “and it was [perceived as being] all Robbie.

Looking at Jacob Stockdale, looking at Keith Earls, looking at Jordan Larmour over the last while, they’ve all been in difficulty. And even going back to the World Cup, we got skinned by Japan a few times; New Zealand didn’t need to expose the fullback with kicks because they were just running through us for fun. But all of our back-three players have had really difficult moments, and they’re moments that don’t show up as much in high-pressure games for their provinces.

“I would look more at our actual system. What back three — or back two — in the world do you see getting pulled apart as regularly as Ireland do? And I don’t believe that Stockdale, Larmour, Earls, Conway — albeit Conway hasn’t really been exposed because he doesn’t have as many caps — are not as good as what’s playing for Wales or England or Scotland in the back three.

“So, at the moment, we’re just shooting the individual but we need to look at our overall defence.

“The situation where Porter ends up one-on-one with Fickou: it’s so random!” Jackman continued. “Show me another example where your tighthead prop ends up one-on-one with the opposition winger, you’ve your scrum-half on the chip line (covering a potential chip in behind), and your back two on that side don’t react and see that danger.

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“So, the result of it is Fickou goes around Porter, he goes around Murray, and then he has 15 metres to draw Conway?

“And then the example where Johnny Sexton puts up the bomb down the middle [before Romain Ntamack's try], we had 14 players on one side of the field!

“Okay, Stockdale should have been across quicker for the chip, and it’s a mistake and he’s in the wrong place, but no one seems to be talking about what’s happening in front of it — do you know what I mean?

“That’s an area that needs further discussion because it’s very difficult for them (the back three) given how poorly we defend in the frontline.”

The42 Rugby Weekly is available wherever you get your podcasts.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey dissect Ireland’s Paris defeat, Sexton’s ‘storm in a teacup’, and Farrell’s latest squad selection:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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