CJ Stander picked a bad time to have his most anonymous game in green
The Munster back-row did not have a single carry in the first half and finished the full 80 having just carried three times.
CJ Stander will not enjoy watching Saturday's abject defeat back in the Monday review session. Joe Schmidt may have to bolt the door closed and bar all exits as this re-watch will be torture.
Ireland have a winning record over England in the 21st century but the English often run up a score in their victories over the men in green.
In years to come, people will look back at the record books and asked what the hell happened when they spy a 57-15 thrashing at Twickenham. The upcoming World Cup may provide the answer.
After the opening two Irish warm-up games for the World Cup, here are the players that have seen their stock rise:
- Joey Carbery
- Chris Farrell
- Keith Earls
- Devin Toner
- Robbie Henshaw
- Jack Conan
- James Ryan
Only three of those seven have actually played Test matches since the season resumed. Not for the first time this year, Irish players are being cherished even more by not playing. We missed Dan Leavy badly during the Six Nations. We'll be lighting flames for him until the day he gets back on the pitch.
Heading into the warm-up games, most keen Irish rugby fans could take a decent stab at naming Joe Schmidt's 31-man squad. Most of us could successfully select 27 or 28 from the final number.
With the World Cup opener against Scotland now four weeks away, Ireland must now stick with the men that have brought them many big victories over the past three years. It is surely too late for sweeping changes. Schmidt has to stick with these men and hope the World Cup itself can provide momentum.
We may have a good idea of the final squad but who starts against Scotland. Looking at key areas, we are in a heap of trouble.
- Do we persist with a flagging Rory Best as the Irish lineout appears to be in tatters?
- Do we start Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton and hope that something clicks, even though it clearly did not in the Six Nations?
- Do we recall Devin Toner to the second row and sacrifice grunt for a lineout beacon?
And what of the back row? England, Wales and England (again) have all monstered us in the past six months. Ireland are now longer taking the fight to teams and securing quick, dominant ball to their half backs.
In the past three games against England and Wales, the likes of Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Tom Curry have made hay. This Ireland squad enjoyed a high watermark against New Zealand last November but they have not won a big scrap since.
CJ Stander has been completely nullified in those three games. The Munster back row so often racks up incredible statistics in his games for province and country. The norm for Stander is hitting double figures for carries, metres made and tackles before the first half has wrapped.
Today at Twickenham, Stander did not make a single carry in the first half. Remember, Ireland were leading 10-8 after 29 minutes so this was not a beat-down from start to finish. His first carry arrived after 47 minutes and his three carries in total ended up gaining his side eight metres. Opposite number Billy Vunipola had 12 carries for 41 metres gained, with two offloads and two defenders beaten.
Looking at Stander's stats from his three outings against England (twice) and Wales encapsulates Ireland's struggles to get going, and to get over the gainline:
- England (Feb 2019) - 11 carries, 4 metres gained
- Wales (Mar 2019) - 14 carries, 9 metres gained
- England (Aug 2019) - 3 carries, 8 metres gained
In terms of having his most anonymous game in a green jersey, most of us would prefer CJ Stander to do it in a warm-up game rather than a World Cup. But in personal terms, he has chosen a really bad time to start his season slowly as there is a live candidate coming for his jersey.
There were already calls for Ireland to go with Jack Conan in their strongest XV. That clamour will increase over the coming days and Conan, who has yet to feature this summer, will be hoping to get a start against the Welsh.
Right now, Schmidt could do with Conan to lay down a marker against Wales and start to give him some tough decisions to make.
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