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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

'I think Mike Catt and Andy Farrell have misjudged the way the game is going'

Murray Kinsella explored the problems with Ireland’s attack on today’s rugby pod, which is available wherever you listen to yours.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and attack coach Mike Catt.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and attack coach Mike Catt.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

TODAY’S RUGBY WEEKLY podcast (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc.) could probably have wrapped after 15 seconds in which presenter Gavan Casey asked Bernard Jackman if he had seen anything in Ireland’s attack against Scotland that would suggest it’s moving in the right direction and Jackman replied: “No.”

Despite his almost palpable air of resignation, the former Ireland hooker and Grenoble and Dragons head coach did eventually expand on his interpretation of Mike Catt’s attack, expressing his belief that “even guys like Garry Ringrose, who’s top-top-end, have become more conservative.”

While recalling the coaches’ recent criticism of their players’ failure to implement the gameplan, Jackman added: “Either the gameplan is to ‘bash it’ or the players have become more conservative.”

He also stressed that Johnny Sexton “papers over a lot of cracks” in Ireland’s attack and that he doesn’t believe that Joey Carbery alone would improve Ireland’s attack at out-half in its current form, but that he would instead find himself “running up blind alleys because there’s not enough support around him and he’s naturally quieter” than Sexton.

Gavan then asked Murray Kinsella: “If Sexton is making the attack look better than it is, then how bad actually is it?”

Murray replied: “Without going too far on this, I think Mike Catt and Andy Farrell have misjudged the way the game is going.

“Look at France: they’re unbelievably good off lineout, structured attack. I know they’ve the capability of opening up and making brilliant decisions on the ball but even within that, even if you think of their first try [v England], there’s loads of structure within that. There’s a real clear understanding of who’s going to hold the short side for the first try and, then, really nice square running, fixing defenders which Ireland haven’t done — basics like that.

Ireland’s set-piece attack has definitely gotten worse as this championship has gone on — there’s no two ways about it. It was really poor again last weekend; getting run into touch off a scrum, not even making gainline dents off first phase of lineout attack; lineout attacks where they meander across three or four phases and it’s unclear what they’re trying to do; certainly not picking out any Scottish weaknesses — and that’s been a bit of a theme.

“And they’ve talked loads about ‘heads-up rugby’. They generally mean being more creative in that phase play. But even look at England’s attack in the first half last weekend, thrilling attack. It’s easy to go, ‘Ah, they took the shackles off.’ But they didn’t! It was really structured, some of the stuff they did.

“Think of Henry Slade’s break off a lovely little bit of shape in midfield where they add in another release player in the back and he draws a defender away. This is in the middle of phase play but it’s highly structured, highly drilled.

“I’m not saying you have to take away any semblance of freedom or autonomy; you still need to have decisions within that structure. But there has to be a bit more structure, I think, and it looks to me like Ireland’s players don’t have that — both in set-piece and in phase-play attack. There’s a real muddiness to it all.

It’s vital that they go away over the next few months, Catt and Farrell, and rethink exactly what they’re doing so that when the players come back in, there’s a lot more…’clarity’ is the word we’ve spoken about. And I’m not saying you prescribe every single thing but give players a sense of where they’re going, what they’re doing in each area of the pitch, and where they need to be to support a team-mate.

“Because, I mean, they’re not even producing line-breaks now,” Murray added. “They were down as having made three but Brett Igoe (rugby analyst and coach) did a good little clip of all the line-breaks in the game and two of them were catching box kicks; and were the box kicks even good, actually? I don’t know because they got tackled only a couple of metres later. And the other one wasn’t really a line-break, either.

“So, they’re just not cutting defences apart and that’s an issue — a big one.”

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It wasn’t all doom and gloom, with Murray, Bernard and Gavan also delving into Ireland’s plus column and, in particular, the rise of Iain Henderson to become a consistent top-five performer for his country.

Also discussed was CJ Stander’s shock retirement announcement, his impact at Munster and service to Ireland, and the prospect of him one day playing again either back home in South Africa or somewhere further afield like Japan.

The42 Rugby Weekly is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey preview Ireland’s game against England and try to figure out where this team is going under Andy Farrell, if anywhere:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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