'CJ had a point to prove' - Irish forwards put up incredible numbers against Wales
"Ireland's ability to win collisions and win gainline was awesome."
Ireland had a point to prove, and so did CJ Stander.
Warren Gatland bemoaned the fact that Wales could not stall or scupper the Irish game-plan, at the weekend, as they did not win enough collisions. The statistics emphatically back that up.
Ireland's 12 forwards [eight starting, four subs] had their best game since the November 2018 victory over New Zealand and, according to Opta, they stacked up even better numbers than that day.
- Total tackles made by forwards: 71
- Dominant tackles: 5
- Tackles missed: 0
- Carries by Irish forwards: 80
- Dominant carries: 7
- Carries over gainline: 33
- Gainline success: 43%
Compare that to the Welsh and the tale of Ireland's 19-10 victory, and the ease of their victory, is laid bare. Wales' forwards made 138 tackles and while they missed only four, just one tackle registered as dominant [where the defender has won the collision and gained a dominant position over the attacker].
In terms of carries, Welsh forwards made 48 and only got over the gainline 11 times. They did not have a single dominant carry and their gainline success was a paltry 24%.
While James Ryan claimed yet another man of the match award, Tadhg Furlong was back to his best and the Irish bench performed manfully, CJ Stander's outing has raised a lot of spirits before this Irish squad fly out for the World Cup in Japan.
That Stander performance against Wales was discussed on the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby [from 53:30 below] and Jerry Flannery suggested it could prompt Joe Schmidt to go with two effective back row units at the tournament.
Gatland claimed after his side's loss that Ireland's expansive game never threatened his side. Schmidt often insists that he gives his players licence to play what they see but he will be much more content after seeing Ireland get over for scores after some set-plays off set-pieces.
Rob Kearney's try involved over half the starting XV but the key moments arrived when Stander barrelled over Wales 10 Rhys Patchell and Conor Murray arrived at the ruck with a sling-shot pass:
That allowed Sexton to draw in defenders and for Kearney to get on the outside shoulder of Jonathan Davies and, by then, it was too late for Leigh Halfpenny to stop the inevitable.
Stander did not chart outstanding numbers - making only nine metres from 14 carries - but he made two of Ireland's dominant carries and looked at home in the blindside role.
"Jack Conan, some are saying, has not snatched the opportunity that has been afforded to him [at No.8] but, in my opinion, he's doing enough. He's a footballer. He's more of a natural 8.
"CJ, when you look at the best No.8s in the world, they are the Kieran Reads and Billy Vunipolas in that they're natural footballers. CJ seems to be coming into his own, in his last couple of [blindside] appearances. They stick him at six and say, 'You just go out and do damage, a work your arse off'. It looks to be working."
Trimble was also impressed with CJ Stander's performance against the Welsh and says, "It looks like he had a bit of a point to prove. He looked so physical."
The former Ireland winger feels Stander may still start the World Cup opener against Scotland in the 8 jersey but reckons Ireland could launch Conan in the same role against the Japanese, six days later. Trimble adds:
"Scotland and Japan both play with a bit of pace and are attritional but, comparatively, Scotland is going to be more attritional and Japan will play with more width. That game might suit Jack whereas the Scotland game should suit CJ. That's not to say one is better than the other."
To Jerry Flannery, Ireland will start Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier and Stander in their back row against the Scots, but he is excited to see who Schmidt puts on the bench.
"Dave Kilcoyne and Rhys Ruddock were great when they came on; had a few dominant hits. Ruddock, in the space of 30 seconds, put in two massive hits. Ireland's ability to win collisions and win gainline was awesome."
WATCH THAT HOUSE OF RUGBY EPISODE HERE:
The latest episodes sees Leinster star James Lowe join Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery to discuss his time in Ireland, CJ Stander's return to form and how he reckons we will fare at the World Cup.