Sunday 17 December 2017

we rely too much on sexton

Our gameplan depends on out-half playing well - others must share load

Well, I got last week wrong and that's for sure! I had expected a comfortable win with Ireland having raised their level to deal with an improving Wales.

Instead, we got an Irish team slightly out of kilter and as the game went on, with no discernible improvement in accuracy, the team struggled to adapt.

The best laid plans of mice and men and all that... Our approach had been so ruthless in the previous games that it was as if we hadn't countenanced on it not being successful. We were left with some poor decision making at the death and one-out runners.

These were bludgeoned by a Welsh defence that put on one of the more impressive rearguard displays I've ever seen.

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised but I have been by the opprobrium now been cast on Joe Schmidt.

Ireland have not set the world alight and yet have been winning, ten on the trot prior to last week. I feel that our coach will learn more about himself after this loss than over the majority of those wins.

He still is learning his trade on the international stage and whereas he has had remarkable success there are still many pitfalls, seen and unseen, that lurk in the international game.

Not taking points and opportunities as of last week are some such lessons. And maybe the biggest lesson yet, nothing can be taken for granted - Wales were well capable of learning from past faults.

Bullied in the second half against England they had no intention of succumbing so meekly again. It was as good a performance as they have strung together. They had few opportunities to score but took every one of them.

The manner of their defence in that extraordinary passage of play was phenomenal. They were lucky not to be penalised for some blatant fouls but they rode that luck. There was something heart warming to be watching a team that had bee inexorably driven back over their own 22, heartwarming if you weren't Irish, of course.

The one-out pounding of the line would have worked against most teams but not Wales in this form. We needed more and yet we reverted to what has succeeded against lesser or more inexperienced teams.

That is the one criticism that does stack up. Ireland need a bit extra, a bit more guile. We have grown accustomed to getting a 9/10 performance from Sexton, he was not at that level and the team suffered for it.

It maybe highlights the flaw in building the game-plan entirely around one player, others need to share the mantel, for the players' sake and the teams.

Paradoxically, we may not need to change too much for tomorrow but we do need the fallback position. We also need to score tries and we need to score points and lots of them.

Wales will wipe the floor with Italy and England will have the benefit of knowing exactly what they need to score to win the championship. Winning isn't good enough alone, we will have to win with points to spare.

Wales will set us a target but we have to presume that England will do more. France could, of course, win but that just doesn't seem at all likely.

So even though we have been conservative for the duration of this tournament Schmidt has to decide whether he will change the focus sufficiently.

Is the style we have shown enough to beat Scotland by the most points or do we go all out from the start to blitz Scotland away?

A lot of the good work could be undone by getting this decision wrong and that is why only the most masochistic among us take the coaching route.

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