Saturday 16 December 2017

Horgan: Ireland have to be better

Ireland have to stay on the right side of referee Wayne Barnes

"It's like anything else. If you have a reputation for getting up in the morning, you can sleep all day," said Shane Horgan.

Coach Joe Schmidt has gone out of his way over time to talk-up Ireland's determination to play off legal scrums and to be proactive around the laws of the game.

Unfortunately, the referee - Wayne Barnes in this case - is the third party who, oftentimes, can make decisions that are the difference between winning and losing.

This likelihood is heightened when Wales Leigh Halfpenny and Ireland's Jonathan Sexton are on the premises.

"I don't know if appeasing referees or keeping referees happy necessarily has a huge influence.

"It's always good to have a decent relationship with them," said Horgan.

"It is good to reinforce a media message over the long-term that you're not a side that gives away penalties at scrum time.

"It is good to reinforce the fact that you are respectful of the offside line and that it's part of your culture not to give away penalties.

"Teams that have a reputation for something, even if they fall away from that over the course of time, the residual memory there from referees gives them that break."

The intelligence of Schmidt has shone through in how he has credited England for trying to play off scrum ball in the lead-up to that game game and how he has been scathing of France when Barnes was the man in the middle.

It gives the impression of a man above the gutter mind games, taking the higher morale ground, if you like.

"We just felt that it was really difficult for Wayne on that day because he was trying to find solutions to a very messy area of the game," said Schmidt.

"We were trying to help provide solutions, but feel that that was a very difficult situation for us to do it in."

Schmidt was more pragmatic in his critique of Wales when asked about their positivity at the scrum, turning the clock back to last season.

"They are certainly working towards it. I know that in the past it has been problematic," he offered.

"It only took two minutes for the first scrum penalty to happen in our game last year.

"We'd hope that we can avoid a scrum fest or a penalty fest and I'm pretty sure they are keen to play against us."

This approach from Schmidt certainly falls in line with how Horgan sees this area, one which can ruin or rocket the atmosphere at The Millennium Stadium.


If Wales' master manipulator Gethin Jenkins, not the most destructive scrummager, can get on the right side of Barnes, Halfpenny will be licking his lips.

As long as Ireland can paint those positive pictures there and at the ruck, Horgan harbours more than hope that they can come away with what they want from Cardiff.

"I think we're a very balanced side. I don't think there are too many areas we're going to be hugely uncomfortable with," Horgan said.

"The main thing that Wales bring to cause Ireland problems is if they play their huge, carrying, possession game.

"Physically, they're probably a bigger side than us and they're more used to that grinding, repetitive ball carry after carry.

"If they get that going deep in our half, I think Ireland will find it difficult to stop their penetration."

While there has been criticism of Ireland's style of play, the former Ireland wing sees room for improvement in what they are doing and in what they can do better.

What about the kicking? "I think it's been quite a sophisticated (kicking) game plan.

"They have used different strategies for every game so far. You will see something different again at the weekend.

"We can get more mileage from it," he continued.

"I don't think Ireland have played their best rugby. That's a positive thing.

"I think our passing game and our running game can be a lot more accurate and can be more incisive as a result.

"If play to the level we can play at, while retain some of the elements we have already, I think we can definitely win.

"If we play at the same level that we have, thus far, we might struggle."


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