Two areas Ireland must quickly address if they are to have any World Cup hope 10 months ago

Two areas Ireland must quickly address if they are to have any World Cup hope

Static carries are killing Ireland's momentum and Joe Schmidt needs to address it before Samoa and, hopefully, the knock-out stages.

A sign of a team battling to find its groove can be found by looking at the speed at which their ball carriers hit the defensive line.

If a team is humming - assured at effective at the breakdown and players aware of their roles - the intended ball-carrier will be timing his run so that he can take the ball at pace and either get over the gainline or make a line break.

Ireland made 16 line breaks and gained 566 metres against Russia but such was their dominance in the loose that they should have done even better against a mostly amateur side. Against Japan, Ireland had 10 line breaks with most of them coming in that golden period of 25 minutes, at the start, when they led 12-3.

As they flagged, in Shizuoka and then Kobe (against Russia), many players were ponderous coming onto the ball or arriving far too early at the breakdown so that they had no forward momentum.

James Ryan took four carries at walking pace or standing still in the final few minutes against Japan and here (below) is Andrew Porter having to check his run and go back as the ball from the breakdown was not quick enough:

Credit: ITV

This issue was looked at during the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby [from 20:00 below] with Barry Murphy stressing that it is an area that needs to be sorted, and quickly.

Peter O'Mahony speaks to referee Jerome Garces during Ireland's game against Russia at the Kobe Misaki Stadium. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

"There was a lack of learning from the Japan game to the game against Russia," says Murphy.

"They're still taking those static carries. Even on quick ball, you'd see that we'd make a few yards and the next carriers would arrive three seconds before the ball is ready.

"It's not a lack of effort but it's sprinting to stop and stopping a yard away from the ruck only to then carry."

Murphy pointed out how Jerry Flannery, when he was analysing New Zealand's recent win over Canada for eir Sport, had looked at that exact area and noted how the All Blacks, as a matter of habit, get their timing spot on.

"The All Blacks knew that Canada were going to go at them with this real line-speed (in defence) so think, 'Okay, we'll just take 15 metres back from the line and move the ball at ease rather than putting ourselves under pressure'."

Andrew Trimble feels the static carries could be down to breakdown inaccuracies and Flannery says this did come back to bite Ireland in the second half against Russia when Tadhg Beirne - like James Ryan (below) the week before him - got very flat and it did not help him get front-foot ball.

Credit: ITV

"In the second half (on 73 minutes)," says Flannery, "we were trying to move the ball and were so flat all the way through it."

Ramping it up at the breakdown and delivering quicker ball will be high on Ireland's priority list, this week and (hopefully) beyond. Some cuteness about timing runs and dropping back so ball-carriers can get some strides in before they take contact must also be a feature if Ireland are to have any hope.


The latest episode sees Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery look ahead to another big World Cup week.