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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Keith Wood: Ireland must go on the attack to conquer England

Nothing between these sides in an era when lack of flair rules the roost

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony
Ireland's Peter O'Mahony

BRUTAL. That was the word that conveyed all my expectation for the French game.

The blood that flowed freely following the clashing of heads ensured that the word proved to be appropriately apt.

It was a game that was hard to watch for many reasons. No space, rigid game-plans, lack of flair, and yes, a bit of fear over the safety of the players.

It was brilliant and exciting too but having watched all the other games over the tournament I can't help but feel that my first word will be the last word on this championship.

Ireland's three remaining games will not be a joy to watch but rather a display in concentration and intensity, accuracy and chess playing.

AGGRESSIVE

They will be hugely aggressive and gladiatorial but, I fear, all a bit samey.

I have always loved the intensity of the Six Nations, the annual rivalry and its place in the calendar holds a special allure.

As a former front row I could spend hours extolling the beauty of that intensity, of the dark arts, of the pressure of playing in this famous old championship. But the truth is I want the blend.

To appreciate the enormous intensity, ala the Ireland-France game, and it was extraordinary to behold, we have to see the light touch as well.

None of this season's teams are playing with a light touch, with the exception of Stuart Lancaster's England in the second half against Italy.

This is a big problem for the tournament, the organisers and ultimately World Rugby.

There is a contradiction in all this of course.

We all want our team to be more consistent and accurate and to win more. We are very happy when it is just our team that goes on this journey.

But this season all the teams have become more consistent and accurate and in that striving for consistency the spontaneity and individualism seems to have been blunted.

It is the natural curve of professionalism which, I believe, will lead to changes in the laws, or more accurately a more appropriate refereeing of the existing laws.

But that is a much longer conversation and I will have to come back to this point at the end of the championship.

In the meantime, Ireland are at the leading edge of this phenomenon.

Joe Schmidt has delivered incredibly on the hand and team he has been dealt with.

An injury beset team has been manoeuvred back to playing and all the while the game-plan has reduced the risk by protecting and easing the players back in.

I have been very impressed with it up to this point.

But as other teams have taken a similar track Ireland need to have a bit more risk in its locker.

I felt we were far superior to France a couple of weeks ago and yet they could have drawn with us at the death.

In games of such intensity it only requires one player to drop off a tackle for that to be the case.

SCORING

We really only had one try scoring opportunity in the game - if we had scored it would have been a very comfortable looking scoreline and with our superiority it would have been reflective of the game.

It is true that the French gave away a huge amount of penalties to stop us getting close to the line but the immutable fact is we need to make more chances.

I'm tempted to write that for the good of the game I hope Ireland attack more with ball in hand.

But in truth I just want Ireland to win and I believe we will need to be more attack-minded to do so.

I see nothing between the two teams and so for the first time in a long time I'm sitting on the fence.

 

 

For the good of the game I hope Ireland attack more with ball in hand

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