So Ireland have made 5 changes for the Scottish game in Murrayfield this weekend. Rob Kearney, Chris Farrell, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan and Sean O Brien have been drafted in by Joe Schmidt and in this case we will finally see the squad depth tested after the past 3 years where Schmidt has build up a reserve that he can dip into.
Last weekend was a wakeup call for Ireland and you can be certain there will be reactions this week and we will finally get to see the squad depth tested in a game with have consequences at full time. Knowing the way the squad has reacted in the past something similar will be needed this time round.
The reaction to the defeat was over the top, like the reaction to the winning streak that saw Ireland win 18 of the past 20 matches. One defeat doesn’t mean the whole situation isn’t redeemable in the rest of the campaign. Let’s face it Joe Schmidt and his squads have delivered 3 Championships since 2013 including the Grand Slam last year. Yes the 2015 World Cup will be pointed to as a failure because of the manner of the defeat to Argentina in the quarter final.
This Saturday is the first true test of the squad depth and by Saturday evening we will know if the changes worked out or haven’t worked at all. Looking at the way the players have spoken since the loss to England, one gets the feeling that there was real honesty last Monday at the video analysis session in Carton House.
Scotland will be driven by their win at home last week and they also defeated Ireland in 2017 at home 26-22. Ireland started slowly that afternoon and they will be wary of starting slowly this year because they were playing catch up last week after conceding a minute in and although they did manage to dominate for 20 minutes in the opening half scoring a try through Cian Healy and that was converted by Jonathan Sexton. Although Ireland dominated the stats they still didn’t put enough points on the board to win the game.
On 65 minutes, it was 17-13 to England and it was only after Jonathan Sexton threw a pass that Henry Slade intercepted and dived over that you could truly say that England were going to pull away and win the game.
I think it is time to calm ourselves and stop getting so tied up in knots by a defeat, it happens and will happen again but it is how you react to last week that will define this Championship. We have been incredibly fortunate since Joe Schmidt took over that we have won a Grand Slam and two Championships in his time in charge. No other Irish coach has achieved anything like that since Ireland began playing in the Championship.
Schmidt deserves to be criticised and has so often come up with solutions to the questions that were previously asked and he deserves another chance to try and weave his magic and if the performance this week does not follow, then players and coach will be correctly questioned further and they will be the ones that will have two weeks to find the right solutions to the questions. Ireland haven’t been far away in the past few years and with the right result this week , they will be back on track in the 2019 campaign…..