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# Power Struggle
'Unfortunately, the game has moved, so there's less need for that kind of technically smart player'
The Irish lineout’s reliance on the Best-Toner axis will come at a cost around the park, says Bernard Jackman.

BERNARD JACKMAN BELIEVES Ireland’s lineout malfunction at Twickenham was merely an early-season blip, but the former hooker is concerned by Joe Schmidt and co’s apparent reliance on two of the squad’s elder statesmen in order for the set piece to function properly.

Speaking on Thursday’s The42 Rugby Weekly post-England autopsy with Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey, Jackman claimed Ireland captain Rory Best was scarcely to blame for Ireland’s woes from the sideline, and explained why seasoned caller Toner had a quixotic task in attempting to rectify the situation upon his introduction in Twickenham.

But while Jackman maintained Best and Ireland will get the lineout right before their departure for Japan, he also feels it will come at a cost around the park, where the 37-year-old skipper and the 33-year-old Toner are less than dynamic compared to most of their contemporaries on the international stage.

“It’s very difficult to criticise Rory for the lineout problems. There weren’t that many bad throws,” Jackman said.

“We had a very predictable setup, our movement was slow, our calling was poor. And that’s been coming to a certain extent because we’re so reliant on [Devin] Toner. And people will say, ‘Ah, well, when Toner came on it didn’t get any better’.

It’s so hard for a lineout caller to come in for 20 minutes — when everyone else has lost the plot and started to doubt themselves, and it’s early in the season — and actually bring a sense of calmness to it. And at that stage England were absolutely cock-a-hoop, when you have [George] Kruis and [Maro] Itoje screaming and taking positions, crowding across the lineout.

“Whereas if you start off in a very cool, calm, structured way, you’ve got good security on the ball, then they start to actually second-guess themselves and they’re a little bit late on their lifts and their movement.

“And the problem was, as well, when we lost a few we went back to even simpler options which made it easier to read. There was just malfunctions across the whole lineout set piece.

“And Rory, obviously, will take some blame for it.

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“I’m not so worried about the lineout from Rory’s point of view. My worry would be his ability to make an impact physically.

Like, if you look at the modern hooker, they’re nearly all big, strong, physical, quick, dynamic players, and that’s the issue. And listen, Rory is a very good scrummager, he’s a decent jackler, he’s got high work rate, but he’s certainly not a ball-carrier of force. He doesn’t have that physical presence. He has loads of experience, but he just looks a bit old — older. He just doesn’t look as powerful as [other international hookers]. And he’s never relied on that part of his game, but unfortunately, the game has moved a little bit so there’s less need for that kind of technically really smart player. You have to be, now, very physically powerful plus have a decent level of technical acumen.

rory-best Billy Stickland / INPHO Rory Best during Ireland training at Carton House. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“So that is worrying for me,” Jackman continued, “especially in the Irish pack. Obviously, James Ryan is going to come in and give us physicality, but that’s probably where he (Best) is lacking. That’s probably where [Niall] Scannell and the other hookers would have a one-up on him: just the ability to give us a little bit more ‘oomf’ around the park.

“But listen, I think Rory will come back. He’ll come back and get through this World Cup and our lineout will be fine.

The issue, I think, is that we’re so reliant on Devin to fix our lineout, that again you carry somebody who’s not going to dominate physically. And unless we’ve got something up our sleeve — that we’re going to outrun teams and outsmart them and play to space — well, then you’ve two in your pack who aren’t really world-class athletes. And unfortunately you’re coming up against teams who are full of them.

Elsewhere on this week’s show, Bernard and Murray broke down where they believe things have been going wrong for a shopworn-looking CJ Stander, and mull over some of the players who look like they might have missed the boat as far as this year’s showpiece is concerned. Gordon D’Arcy also weighed in on Ireland’s woes at Twickenham, and why there is still cause for optimism despite the glass being “nearly fully empty.”

You can listen to full episode of The42 Rugby Weekly below or on your regular podcast provider.

Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey and Bernard Jackman try to identify how Ireland can get back on track after Twickenham.


The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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