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'Ireland need to de-structure the game a little bit, play at a huge tempo'

This week’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra involved plenty of discussion of Ireland’s attack.

Ryan Baird has yet to play for Ireland but could have a big role in the future.
Ryan Baird has yet to play for Ireland but could have a big role in the future.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

TWO DEFEATS FOR Ireland in their opening two Six Nations games always meant there would be bigger-picture questions asked of where this team is going under Andy Farrell and his coaching staff.

With Ireland’s attack labouring against the strong French defence, many people are wondering about the direction Ireland are moving in, including listeners of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

Speaking on this week’s pod, Eoin Toolan – who coaches in Japan – told Murray Kinsella about his view of what Ireland should be chasing with their attacking philosophy. 

“I think Ireland need to de-structure the game a little bit, rely on some more individual skill, play at a huge tempo, with individuals who can make decisions based on the pictures that they’re provided with,” said Eoin.

“I think if Ireland go to a really structured game against the likes of England and France, I just don’t see them having the firepower to break down the defences systematically.

“They need to work those big packs around the pitch with long ball-in-play times, high skills levels and guys that can pop up all over the pitch at first receiver, second receiver, and take on defenders.

“Someone like Jame Lowe does give you that. Think of that sequence with Jamison Gibson-Park where Gibson-Park takes a high ball, offloads out the back of his hand and Lowe breaks away down that left edge and finds Gibson-Park… there have been moments where those two guys have combined and you can see they’re just playing on instinct.

“I think Ireland need a hell of a lot more of that if I’m being honest. That’s the framework Ireland need to go to and get guys into the jerseys with the requisite skill level to be able to produce that kind of game.”

Murray: “That’s a really interesting point you make because that’s quite a drastic leap and it doesn’t really feel like that’s the aim at the moment.

“Is that a realistic shift for them or how much is that going to mean in terms of personnel decisions?”

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gavin-coombes Gavin Coombes has shown potential for Munster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Eoin: “You still need the framework there and I can see the framework they’re trying to get to in terms of their attacking shape, but it’s just having the individuals within that shape to make decisions and have the skills to execute it.

“That’s probably been the big focus in Irish camp and maybe why some of the structured stuff has suffered a little bit, that they are focusing on more of the multi-phase attack, which with the way the modern game is going, you’re getting as much possession from transition as you are from structured possession.

“How they select… I definitely feel Ireland need a bit more pace in their side. From a back row perspective, a back row like Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, and CJ Stander absolutely give Ireland a huge amount in terms of a certain style of play. In that confrontational, abrasive back row perspective, they are absolutely excellent at it.

“We may just need a little more athleticism and pace to play at a higher tempo and obviously Ireland are missing Caelan Doris. Himself, Ryan Baird, Gavin Coombes, Dan Leavy, these types of guys with the athletic capacity and skill levels to be able to operate in wide channels, and operate within a framework but with the ability to make decisions based on the defensive pictures.

“In my opinion, that’s where Ireland need to go to because I just don’t think we have the profile of athlete to play a hugely confrontational game when we play the likes of France, England, and South Africa in particular.”

Yesterday’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra saw the lads breaking down Ireland’s defeat to the French and, as always, answering questions from members of The42.

The podcast included discussion of England’s bonus-point win over Italy and the wildly entertaining clash between Wales and Scotland.

You can sign up as a member of The42 here in order to listen to the extra rugby podcasts and a wide range of other shows on sportswriting, football, GAA, and coaching, as well as getting weekly newsletters and access to our lively member-only Whatsapp groups.

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