Can we please, please get the ball to these lads? 1 week ago

Can we please, please get the ball to these lads?

Saturday's game was a continuation of a stultifying trend.

Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway have retained the No.11 and 14 jerseys for this weekend's clash with Wales but we are hoping to see a lot more of them with ball-in-hand.

There were a couple of extremes emerging from the 19-12 victory over Scotland that opened Ireland's 2020 Guinness Six Nations campaign. Hordes have expressed dissatisfaction over Ireland's style of play and inability to put a Scotland side away that came into the contest as deserving underdogs. Plenty of others have used the win over the Scots to proclaim the likes of CJ Stander, Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton have returned to top form.

The truth, as it usually does, lies somewhere in the middle. A win of any sort was the most important thing for Andy Farrell's side but let's not pump too many tyres after overseeing a team that have never finished higher than third in the Six Nations.

On Saturday, O'Mahony and Stander proved their Test-playing tank is far from empty. Sexton had some decent moments, as did Conor Murray, and how good was it to see that Irish lineout functioning well?

Something that stood out from that opening day victory was how little Stockdale and Conway featured when Ireland were on the attack. Farrell only had five training sessions to impart some early changes to this squad but the lack of involvement from wingers was bleakly familiar to the last 12 months of the Joe Schmidt era.

On the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, Ronan O'Gara and Shane Williams dropped into the studio to preview Ireland's upcoming match with the Grand Slam champions. O'Gara had a few interesting points to make on Ireland's attacking game-plan.

Against Scotland, Conway had five possessions and Stockdale had six. Some of the wingers' biggest contributions were on kick chases, with Conway winning Ireland a crucial penalty in the second half after one belt up-field in pursuit of a steepler.

Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls did not see much of the ball at the World Cup. The Ulster winger had four carries in the win over Scotland, seven in the loss to Japan and six in the quarter final exit against the All Blacks. Earls had a handful more carries but, like Stockdale, was scoreless in Japan. Neither of the country's most prolific try-scorers crossed the white-wash during that disappointing tournament.

It will take time for Farrell to make his mark on this team but O'Gara would love to see more width and ambition. He commented:

"Because, genetically, we don't have monsters playing the game, we need to play at a faster speed.

"The three teams coming out of the World Cup, for me, are South Africa, obviously. They backed their game-plan and you have to admire that. England... I was at that game against New Zealand and it was a tactical masterclass in terms of attacking kicking and finding space. And then giving up hope, as a young coach, watching Japan and how they play as a national team. Their variety of attack is phenomenal. They change the point of attack, clearing the point of attack and their aggression is very interesting.

"Ireland need to take a little out of their book, in terms of having multiple threats. But at the minute, it seems to be CJ and Bundee Aki. We cannot seem to go from wide to wide. I understand it being tough in January and difficult with a wet ball, but it wasn't really a wet ball at the weekend. For me, the big one would be tempo."

As an example of attacking tempo, O'Gara points out England's opening gambit against Ireland in the 2019 Six Nations, when Jonny May scored after a Manu Tuilagi bust off the back of a quick, and purposely overthrown, lineout.

Shane Williams and Ronan O'Gara hosted hosted the second Guinness Six Nations experience in The Courtyard on Sober Lane, Cork. (INPHO)

In terms of Ireland's upcoming encounter with Wales, Williams is backing his compatriots to come out on top but concedes it will be a close one.

"This Ireland team are not allowed lose at home," said O'Gara. "That's the mentality they've built and they've the best record at home of all the teams in the past five and a half years."


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Ronan O'Gara and Shane Williams drop into the House of Rugby studio for a chat with Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery. The gang preview the Guinness Six Nations clash between Ireland and Wales, and Matt Williams proves to be a legend during a phone-call forfeit.