Stephen Ferris floats idea of big starting XV call for Ireland-South Africa
Ireland's 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign has got off to the best possible start.
One comfortable win has followed another, over Romania and Tonga respectively and, on top of that, Finlay Bealham-permitting, Andy Farrell's side have escaped any major injuries.
But Tadhg Beirne said it in his post-match interview. "It's knock-out rugby from here."
You can go as far back as December 2020, to when these lob-sided pools were initially drawn to find the moment Ireland were given their target.
And, with all due respect to Romania and Tonga, from the minute Ireland found themselves in a pool with World Champions South Africa, they would have known that their tournament only really began with that game.
Speaking in the aftermath of Ireland's 59-16 win over Tonga, the RTÉ rugby panel of Stephen Ferris, Simon Zebo and Jamie Heaslip discussed the hows of beating Rassie Erasmus' side, who are the most physical outfit in the world.
All three former Ireland internationals were in agreement that, to beat them, Ireland will have to move the ball fast rather than get dragged into a bish-bash-bosh-fest.
"Ireland are going to have to orchestrate a game that involves a lot of ball-in-play minutes," said Jamie Heaslip.
"Ireland are not going to get into an arm-wrestle with South Africa.
The way they win is moving these big players around the field, not letting them have this really slow cadence of a game, going from set-piece to set-piece," continued the former number eight.
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) September 16, 2023
Simon Zebo agreed that spreading the ball is going to have to be a key part of Ireland's plan.
"South Africa are the world champions and they've hit very good form, without clicking too much," said the former Lion.
"I think Ireland are going to need to spread the ball, to move them around, to move the point of contact. But it's going to be hard if the conditions are greasy like this evening."
And on the subject of greasy balls and handling errors and so on, Stephen Ferris made a very interesting point.
"That (moving the ball fast) can also catch you out," said Ferris.
"If you're going to do that in your own half, and there's huge physicality in the breakdown, next thing you'll give away a couple of penalties.
"Ireland gave away thirteen penalties today. You can not afford to do that against South Africa, so it's about playing in the right areas of the pitch," he said.
And, under the impression that Murray has a better kicking game than Gibson Park, Ferris seems to think that the Munster man is our best option to start the game at scrum half.
"Conor Murray started the match today and I said to Simon before it kicked off, could he potentially start next week because his kicking game is so good?
"His passing today, was right on a plate for Johnny Sexton.
"The experience there as well. You want that tempo, of course you do, but you want it in the right areas of the pitch. You play with that tempo in the wrong area of the pitch, and South Africa will go after you."
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