Wednesday 19 September 2018

Attack is now focus for ireland

X-Factor of Zebo, Earls and Ringrose is best weapon

Simon Zebo in action during Ireland squad training at Carton House
Simon Zebo in action during Ireland squad training at Carton House
Keith Earls (left) and Garry Ringrose arrive for Ireland training

Ireland will take the path of evolution rather than revolution into this Six Nations. Their coach Joe Schmidt is not one to stand still.

Initially, the limited time on offer to work with players meant he was at the mercy of the four provincial coaches back in the Autumn of 2013.

He eschewed the public perception of turning his back on the all-court game of Leinster for the more pragmatic, less aesthetic approach with Ireland.

Everyone has to restart somewhere.

The masterful coach simply took the view that he had to go back to basics, begin all over again.

Schmidt's system was a shock to the system of players with whom he would only share snatches of time.

He tore up the detailed script for what he wanted to do, replacing it with the one he had to use.

It was a sound enough platform on which to take Six Nations titles in 2014 and 2015.

Then, the Rugby World Cup happened. Ireland had the spine of their team removed and needed more time than they had to recover.

Schmidt has a full four-year cycle to work towards Japan in 2019, as long as he wanted to stay on. Gradually, he has stretched Ireland's game enough to add layers of panache to the plan.


He has slowly introduced the likes of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose to his template at Carton House long before they were scheduled to play for Ireland.

He has also taken the untamed skills of Simon Zebo and polished them up through dedication to the basics of the game.

The trust that wasn't there has been formed, initially out of necessity, now out of performance, most notably in November.

The Irish players move on more quickly than the rest of us. That is the nature of their business. The Autumn series is long gone.

"We've kind of moved on," said the Munster man.

"We've definitely taken some new learnings from camps in between and things like that.

"We know that we have to develop our game another bit if we want to be successful in this campaign.

"The boys can take a lot of confidence from what we did in the autumn.

"We know we have to evolve if we want to compete against a lot of strong opposition in this Six Nations."

The ambition Ireland have shown since the tour to South Africa has been rewarded with history made and barriers breached.

This is most apparent in the appearance of that rare gemstone, the offload.

"The big thing about an offload is dominating contact," stressed Zebo.

"If you win gainline, then nine times out of ten it's on. If you're losing in the tackle then it won't be and it becomes willy nilly and teams start intercepting.

"If we have momentum, and players are tackling us low then we can keep the ball alive.

"That's what attacking rugby is all about."

Schmidt will embrace the attacking skills of Zebo, Keith Earls and Garry Ringrose out of a sense of playing to Ireland's strengths amid speculation Tommy Bowe will be parachuted into the matchday squad.

The key component is the link between Henshaw and Ringrose in the centre.

The former showed against Castres he is a big game player.

Ireland have not totally tapped into his passing skills as the back row needs a target man to hit it up.


Ringrose is far from a giant in the middle and running through someone is not an option.

Therefore, his footwork, passing, intelligence and, yes, offloading will encourage his support runners stay close because he can truly make something out of nothing.

"We've got that attacking mind-set and no fear about us," stated Zebo

"Myself, Earlsy, Garry Ringrose, all these players are able to bring out special moments in games, and big moments obviously win big games."

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