Wednesday 13 December 2017

Ireland get a glimpse into the future from young debutants Van der Flier, McCloskey and Dillane

Josh van der Flier: Photo: Sportsfile
Josh van der Flier: Photo: Sportsfile

If you haven't got a future, you've got nothing to look forward to.

While Ireland's third straight defeat at Twickenham was as tough as any to take, there was ample encouragement from how new caps Josh van der Flier and Stuart McCloskey grew with the game and in how the other Ultan Dilane got up to speed straight away.

"I am excited by some of the young guys that are coming in," said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

"Some of them have spent a week or two with us in building to a match day mode. They've shown they can well step up to this level. That's got to be positive going forward."

Leinster openside Van der Flier's reputation as a tackle machine was justified from his total of fifteen even though there were three that got away from him.

There were elements of his game that were made near impossible by England's bloody-minded dominance of the ball, especially in the first half.

There were no turnovers to point towards, though the 22-year-old came as close as possible without actually claiming a try on his international debut.

"I thought Josh grew into the game and looked better and better as the game went on," said his coach.

"He's got a big engine. He made a couple of really telling tackles. His ability to arrive and be positive was a real asset to us."

It was interesting to observe how McCloskey popped up further out in attack than his inside centre slot would have suggested.


The England tactic of double-teaming him in the tackle was a reflection of the danger they knew he could cause. This will benefit Ireland in future.

It is the same problem posed by Billy Vunipola, as Schmidt noted "a heck of a ball carrier," in that it opens up space somewhere else.

The Ulsterman is a long-strider, one who causes greatest damage when moving at top speed and he was able to show that in the second-half as fatigue crept in.

"Stu got into the game a little bit in the second-half and showed the big strong carrier he can be for us," said Schmidt.

There was also evidence that the basics of his play are not quite nailed down yet.

The game awareness for everything going on around him has to be developed because England hunted down the ball, not just the ball carrier.

It is precious cargo that has to be treated like a treasure in that it cannot be given awaty cheaply.

"There were a couple of times that he probably needed to take care of the ball better when he was a little bit loose."

The case of Dillane is arguably the most interesting in that Ireland is crying out for a second row enforcer type.

Traditionally, the best second rows are balanced out by a lineout-calling, grafting decision-maker and a more rounded, powerhouse athlete who can dish out punishment.

"Ultan came on, pinched a lineout, made a line break and really put himself about.

"He's a big, strong kid and he's still learning the game."

The Tralee man has all the physical tools and hard edge mindset to be a force for the future.

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