Eric Miller: Irish turn to Italy with momentum
AS I watched yesterday morning’s match, the movie Rocky IV strangely popped into my head.
The infamous, “I must break you” quote from Dolph Lundgren sprung to mind as he towered over his opponent preceding their epic battle.
Thankfully, it was the men in green on this occasion that took that mindset to heart as they efficiently dispatched their weary opponents who had come into the game with a lot more rounds under their belt from three quick games in succession over an 11-day period. One felt for them in one sense, but Ireland stuck to their task and most importantly kept up the momentum following the heroics from the week before. Job done, and with the added bonus of avoiding any major injuries, one expects that the team will quickly shift their minds on to the Italian game.
For Russia, considering their squad limitations, they stuck manfully to their task, and despite being completely outclassed they did manage to score two exceptional tries worthy of any World Cup occasion.
Even taking into account the opposition, Keith Earls looked a lot more comfortable at number 13, a position that he could well occupy once O’Driscoll decides to hang up his boots. One wonders if Drico is thinking along those lines. O’Gara’s comments last week could well have brought similar thoughts into his mind. I do hope he plays it smart over the next couple of years should he decide to continue. There is no doubt his body has been through the mill – the mind must be starting to tell him one or two things at this stage. Psychologically for Ireland it would be a blow if he took the decision to finish but that would always be the case no matter when he decided to call it a day. He still has so much to offer, but hopefully he will look at the big picture and realise that he has the rest of his life to look forward to as he factors everything in.
Shaun O’Brien had another big game. He is one of the players who is truly making his mark on this tournament. It was wise to replace the likes
of himself and Cian Healy once they were out of sight on the scoreboard, but leaving Jamie Heaslip on the pitch was a wise move. I thought he had his most important game for Ireland for a good while, especially in the second half. You could see his confidence growing as the game opened up and that form will be key for Ireland as they progress.
The outhalf question will occupy the minds of many this week, but my gut feeling is that Kidney will go for both players in the game against the Italians, assuming they decide to hold D'Arcy back another week. If things go well, who knows what may happen, but this continual battle between the two players is starting to affect their mindset and consistency, although you would not say that both are playing badly. Sexton is probably the unofficial number one, but whatever approach Ireland take in to the match, one expects that both will play their part at some stage, even if one happens to start ahead of the other.
Isaac Boss would have been happy with his opportunistic score against the padding of the post, especially in his hometown. For me, it underlined his intelligence as a player. I think he has been well under-used thus far and should have been given more game time. He has few limitations but watching the way he marshalls his players, as a former forward, for me, there was nothing better than having a chirpy scrum-half in your ear.
It is unlikely that he did anything to change Kidney’s mindset. However, considering the physicality of the Italians he should be at least considered for bench duty. It should be an interesting selection as Kidney may also be tempted to stick with a winning side.
Despite the titanic victory against the Aussies, for the Italians this game has not been diluted one bit. If the wet weather continues expect another fierce battle.