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ireland learn very little

AS expected Ireland ran out comfortable 49-7 winners in the Aviva Stadium yesterday against a brave but seriously limited Georgia side.

Did we learn much? Not really. The main talking point ahead of next weekend's visit of the Australians being the possible recall of veteran Gordon D'Arcy to the Irish midfield, and the possibility of double try-scoring full-back Felix Jones onto the wing.

One thing was evident over the weekend - the gap between the two hemispheres is continuously closing, but the standard of most of the games was fairly average.

On Saturday we saw a poor enough performances from just about all the top ranked teams.

What we wanted from Ireland, despite fielding a new-look team, was a more ruthless, clinical and consistent approach. The scoreboard looked healthy from an Irish point of few, but Georgia were clearly struggling with the rigors of the professional game and were too often reduced to 14 through ill-discipline to be really competitive.

We wanted to see what coach Joe Schmidt had described pre-game as a "continuity of performance" and while the second half was a huge improvement, the first half will still be of concern for a coach who is all about perfection.

Many of these young Irish players were given a serious vote of confidence from their coach, and if they wanted extra motivation then they need not look no further than this year's 'Irish Player of the Year' Andrew Trimble.

Before Schmidt's arrival Trimble was getting the odd run out for Ireland but mostly just plying his trade with Ulster.

Enter Schmidt who gave Trimble the confidence to resurrect his career. Schmidt is known to be fiercely loyal, but he also needs his players to repay the confidence he shows in them.

He is also about assessing whether players have what it takes to make it at this level, especially in a World Cup building season - players like Dominic Ryan and Dave Foley.

Ryan has long been touted as an out and out no 7, but yesterday he was asked to play slightly out of position at blindside flanker, although the modern game dictates that there is no longer much of a difference in the positions.

Foley had a very productive game indeed, and was imperious in the air both from restarts and lineouts, he also carried his fair share of ball and deserved his eventual 'Man of the Match' award.

Georgia arrived with a basic enough game-plan that focused on their obvious strengths, big gnarly forwards that would compete well in the collision areas and in the scrum, but thereafter fairly one dimensional.

INTENSITY

To win, and win well, Ireland just needed to match the intensity of the visitors early on and then seek to move the ball into the wider channels, where the Georgians were as expected, pretty thin.

It eventually panned out that way,. For Schmidt it is all about team-work and he talks about "making the player around you look good first" ie perfect the basics before you move on to the secondary skills of the game.

Schmidt would not have been happy with his team in the first half.

In my opinion they were guilty at times of playing as individuals and not as a team, they were a bit too slow to compete at the breakdowns and they were playing the game in areas where the Georgians could compete their best ie close in. With the opposition down to 14 men and struggling, Schmidt would have insisted at half-time that his players do the donkey work first, clear out rucks a lot quicker and play a much wider, high tempo game.

When they did they profited.

Quick ruck ball early in the second half allowed Dave Kilcoyne over for Ireland's first try and it seemed that Ireland had the cushion to relax and innovate. Dead on their feet and after a huge defensive effort, the Georgians were never going to be more than door-stoppers as the game progressed.

But as they had done a couple of times in the first half, Ireland's defence was caught badly napping for Georgia's only try. Ireland did not number up adequately in defence, leaving a simple overlap for Giorgi Nemsadze to rumble in, no less than they deserved.

Ireland then probably had their brightest patch when running in a number of tries.

In the end a decent day at the office, and players for Scmidt to invest in long-term, but a game soon forgotten as Schmidt turns his mind to the visit of the Wallabies.

With two wins for the Autumn internationals, Schmidt would have taken that at the start of the series, especially with all the injuries, now he has the chance to go one better, but be warned as Ireland will face a wounded Wallaby squad desperate to bounce back from Paris. It is going to be a busy week.


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