Wales Vs Ireland Review
Ireland and Wales played out an entertaining draw at the Aviva yesterday that finished 16-16. Both camps will take positives and negatives from the game that saw Ireland attacking wider than they have before under Joe Schmidt. Although it wasn’t all positive as the scrum and Line out came under pressure. Nathan White was selected at tight head after injuries ruled out both Mike Ross and Martin Moore. Rob Evans was selected at loose head for Wales and Ireland had said they were hoping to target the Welsh scrum. While the scrum was struggling through a mixture of calls from referee Jerome Garces and also Rob Evans was not being penalised for some illegal scrummaging.
The line out struggled from the start where new Irish skipper Rory Best had a tough day trying to find his jumpers. In attack Ireland pulled Wales apart using Johnny Sexton and his famed wrap around plays , he also used some clever runners from deep with Robbie Henshaw and Simon Zebo both coming onto the ball at speed and causing the Welsh defence trouble every time.
Ireland were forced into a number of changes since the World Cup due to injuries to several key players and also the well-publicised retirement of Paul O Connell. Peter O Mahony missed out through injury and was replaced in the squad by Munster team mate CJ Stander who many felt deserved his shot at a green shirt in the test arena.
He qualified to play for Ireland under residency rules after moving here from South Africa in 2012 to join Munster. He made it quite clear a few months into his time here that he wanted to play for Ireland and yesterday that dream came through and also watching him belt out the National Anthem was a special moment. His performance was really strong and it certainly put all doubters in their place.
All 15 players on the field bought into the game plan and for the most part it worked well, Ireland led 13-0 after 30 minutes and then Toby Faletau crashed over for a try that saw them come from 13-0 down to 13-10 and that is how the 1st half finished.
Into the 2nd half and Ireland created a great chance off of a line out that saw Jack Mc Grath act as the link man and his pass created space on the outside that Johnny Sexton exploited and he put Andrew Trimble into space although Tom James tracked back and put him into touch. Wales lost Dan Biggar to an ankle injury and his replacement Rhys Priestland set the Welsh back division moving although it was really slow moving with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies doing well in defence they didn’t really do very much in attack other than crash straight up the middle which for the most part Ireland were able to cope with.
Both sides will feel they had chances to win the game but considering how tight things were in the second half both teams most still feel they are well in the title race that also includes France and England with Italy and Scotland already looking towards the trap door. Let’s see what unfolds next weekend in round 2….
Cian Mc Gibney