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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Plan of attack is crucial if Irish to take next step

DECLAN KIDNEY has rightly kept faith with the starting team that courageously snatched victory from the jaws of defeat less than two weeks ago.

Although we did things the hard way, the manner in which we took our opportunities illustrated the work that goes on behind the scenes in preparation for every game.

The last try looked as if it came straight off the training field. It exposed the defence at the back of the English lineout and left Jonny Wilkinson in no man's land. Tomás O'Leary and Tommy Bowe linked beautifully and the rest is history.

Executing a move like that under the highest pressure -- from the training pitch and the video room to the real situation -- is such a hard thing to do, so the coach and the players have to be given their dues for identifying many of England's weaknesses and exposing them on a day when it was truly needed.



RUTHLESS

Ireland had defended for most of the game but when required the boys were thoroughly professional and ruthless.

Kidney would be well aware that on many of these occasions such plans do not come off -- if the plan had not been executed successfully then where would Ireland have been in Twickenham two weeks ago?

Of course, it's a moot point after the fact but Ireland will not always be able to rely on gaps opening where they have planned in any given match.

I make no apologies for being a little blunt after the England game but I do feel that Ireland at the moment are a little stagnant in the development of the attacking game that is needed to challenge the teams above them in the world rankings.

We currently lie fourth in the seedings, a Triple Crown this year will be a decent return considering the unique challenges that each Six Nations team presents.

And despite Ireland's position in the world rankings -- which are, unlike other sports, a fair reflection on where teams stand in the pecking order -- a second Grand Slam, no matter how good you are, was always going to be a 'big ask' this year, especially with the fixture schedule this time round.

However, a failure to win back-to-back games at home in the final two games will raise a few valid questions.

Considering the type of games that we expect against the Welsh and the Scots a week later, Ireland should have ample opportunity to play some rugby.

In the next two games we will need to demonstrate some real fluidity in attack. The attitude in the early stages against the French showed that we were trying to implement such a game, however things did not pan out.

Playing at home, with the carrot of a Triple Crown, offers us a great chance to show what we can do with the ball in hand, hopefully for long periods of each game. We'll take the wins of course, but if we huff and puff again in the process, having to overly rely on our defence and undoubted courage and team spirit, then there will be serious questions in the aftermath relating to whether this team has reached its peak.

The weather should suit both sides in what should be one of the games of the championship on Saturday.

Wales will come to play rugby and should improve on their large error count from previous games.

Considering the manner of Ireland's victory at Twickenham, you feel that they will be equally as hungry to play with the ball in hand.

Ireland will not want to spend as much time on the back foot as they did in Twickenham, so you hope that much of the preparation has been around implementing an attacking mindset.

If Ireland approach this game in such a way it would bring the Welsh more into the contest. The mental approach will be key. Ireland must believe they can beat Wales at their own game, if not then we may retreat into where we are currently comfortable by just stopping them from playing and somehow hoping we get through on our experience and resolve.

It may be good enough on the day, but it will do us no favours in the long run. I would be happy to let Wales score three or four tries as long as we manage to create and score five or six with real purpose and style, not just for things to be pleasing for the spectators, but to show that we are ready and willing to take things to the next level.

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