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Sunday 17 December 2017

Eric Miller: Irish on right track to hone attacking game

I must admit, I did not see that coming. I am never usually one who would take my eye of any opponent before a game, but most of us I'm sure were caught a little cold by Saturday's result.

The Scots, to be fair to them, came with a gameplan in mind and implemented it to its extreme on a day when we ended up being just as much the authors of our own downfall. But hats off to the opposition on a well-deserved win.

It may sound strange to some but, apart from the set-piece capitulations, as we dwell on many of the handling errors that were made, it is important to keep a bit of perspective on how this team is ultimately trying to evolve.

For years these players have been coached to play a certain way, and much of it has been around set patterns of play with very little onus placed on players making split-second decisions on what they see in front of them.

Previous coaches always emphasised such things in words but without really implementing such an approach in their training methods so players remained stagnant in the development of such a skill set needed under the highest pressure.

It would at least give us some explanation as to why we made so many elementary handling errors in the game on Saturday.



Empowered

Watching class players dropping simple passes does not make sense, but now having been empowered to play a game that will hopefully challenge the best teams, such is the short-term pain that we must suffer for the greater and long-term good of the game in this country -- and our national team as we head to a World Cup that will hopefully see this team reach the peak of its powers.

The modern game requires that teams play with their heads up and they must train in a way that complements such an approach, as most teams are so well organised defensively nowadays.

Despite the loss, I am still optimistic about the way we are trying to go about our business; for whatever reason we have just not seen enough of it.

Throughout this campaign I have continually questioned how we are going to go about developing an attacking game that would challenge the best sides. Clearly we are in the early stages of evolving such a plan, but it appears that we are on the right track.

If we refuse to go into our shell in the aftermath of what was a bitterly disappointing defeat we will have more of a shot as we head Down Under in the summer adopting such an approach.

Without trying to be disingenuous to ourselves, the smash-and-grab jobs, although clinical against the likes of the English and Welsh, just would not cut the mustard against the southern hemisphere sides.



Frenetic

The squad realises this now and are clearly trying to improve. Having defended for long periods of the previous games, you felt on Saturday that the players wanted to demonstrate where they are trying to go as an attacking team, but because of reasons outlined and their mindset on the day, they ended up trying too hard; everything was too frenetic and too forced.

The result demonstrates how much they still have to do, but it is no less achievable now than it was on Saturday. More time implementing a faster and more ambitious approach will need more hard work on the training pitch under pressure, but in time it should bear fruit so we can have a real cut at the World Cup.

If we look short-term, it was a very bad result. However, if we can get our scrum more solid -- which remains a big challenge -- and get our defence and lineout sorted, added to a new attacking ability, it will make us a more complete side, most importantly not overly reliant on one or two facets of the game.

If we had lost all the lineouts that we did on Saturday but caught all those passes that went to ground in the early stages, the scoreboard would have made it very difficult for the Scots to come back.

I firmly believe we can get to the stage where if one aspect of our game fails on the day than the rest of our game would be strong enough to make up for such shortcomings.

We are not there yet, but in defeat the path is now a lot clearer and we can scale even bigger heights that are eminently achievable.

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