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Saturday 17 November 2018

Leavy and O'Mahony out to break down England

DAN DARE: Dan Leavy
DAN DARE: Dan Leavy

Ireland have to win the battle at the breakdown to keep England down.

In Dan Leavy and Peter O'Mahony, they have just the men for the job.

The Leinster openside has been waiting in the long grass to take over from Sean O'Brien and Josh van der Flier.

The one area he has it over both of them is at the breakdown, where Leavy has mastered the art of poaching.

Then, there is the agility of O'Mahony and immediate recall of the strong sequence in which he tackled Scotland wing Blair Kinghorn, released and pounced for a turnover last Saturday.

In addition, this area is as much about slowing down the ball as turning it over, giving the defence time to get set in position.

"I think the Irish-English games are huge, regardless of what's on the line," said Leavy.

"They are going to want to get one back on us after what we did last year.

TRUE GRIT: Peter O’Mahony
TRUE GRIT: Peter O’Mahony

"We know what we have to do and they are going to try and stop us."

It will be difficult for Leavy to drink in the acclaim of winning the Six Nations if it comes half-an-hour after losing to England.

"Hopefully, that won't be the case because it would be bitter-sweet."

Ironically, the loss of Courtney Lawes from the blindside and Nathan Hughes at number eight, both through injury, could well lead to England being strengthened at the breakdown.

Even England's defence coach Paul Gustard has highlighted it as the main area of neglect against Scotland and France.

"It's pretty clear isn't it, our breakdown work has not been as effective as we'd like it to be," he said.

"Ultimately, the amount of turnovers and penalties created around that area has cost us."

Just like Ireland would claim, this is no longer the sole remit of the openside, even the loose forward trio.

The game has moved on to the point where every player has to be able to do everything, in terms of protecting the ball.

From the 12 penalties given up by England in Paris, half of them came when they carried the ball into the contact.

Quite simply, this is unacceptable and unsustainable when it comes to winning.

"Collectively, we all take responsibility for it," issued Gustard.

"The breakdown happens more in the game than anything else and, therefore, it is a responsibility for all of the coaching group, all of the players.

"We're all part of this and we'll try and make it better and get the right outcome this weekend."

It will be up to the likes of the flankers Leavy and O'Mahony to show England it will take more than one week.

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