Wales were truly awful, so let's not get carried away with Grand Slams

Peter Clohessy
February 2014
Mail on Sunday;2/ 9/2014, p93
IT'S too soon for talk of Triple Crowns, never mind Grand Slams. Ireland fans might not like to hear that after what they saw their team do to Wales yesterday, but it is a fact. Ireland have simply not been tested at the highest level yet in this Six Nations. After they rolled over Scotland everyone expected a proper challenge from Wales, but they offered nothing more than the Scots. It was staggering to watch but the brutal truth is that Wales were awful, and that played a big part in Ireland's comfortable win. As a result, we have to prepare for Twickenham with the realisation that we still don't know if Ireland are ready to compete and to win against the leading teams. We presumed Wales would pose that kind of test and ask those sorts of questions, but bar a few minutes at the start of the second half, they were woeful and Ireland ran through them. This was a highly competent Ireland performance in the circumstances. If you wrote down what they needed to do to beat Wales, your list would read: — defend well; — take your chances when they come; — keep disciplined. Ireland did all of that and it was enough to secure the victory. Yet it isn't time to start the party; a Triple Crown is a long 80 minutes away, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that we will come back from Twickenham with our tails between our legs. Players like Peter O'Mahony will do their best to make sure that is not the case. He was simply terrific in this match. He played Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate off the pitch and just destroyed Wales at the breakdown. There is no mystery to how he plays the game: he is fit, strong and accurate. In short, he is a workhorse and the best teams always have players like that. They can be the difference between winning and losing and O'Mahony had a huge say in this Irish victory. Brian O'Driscoll was sound in defence, and beside him Gordon D'Arcy was safe and secure, too. I watch D'Arcy and wonder what he offers outside of defence, but that begs another question: who should start instead of him? Luke Marshall might be one for the future but he doesn't offer enough in attack to make him an automatic pick ahead of D'Arcy. It's a 50-50 call and I can't see Joe Schmidt changing his team unnecessarily after this. It was heartening to see Martin Moore get another run out off the bench. I've been impressed by him and it won't be long before he is starting. I'm convinced of that. It won't be in London, though, and in fairness Schmidt sticking by the players who won this game so convincingly would not be surprising. I would not be slow in criticising a referee if I thought he deserved it but Wayne Barnes had no great influence on the match. Wales were hit hard with penalties, especially in the first half, but that is easily explained. They were under so much pressure because of Ireland's work at the breakdown and the Irish accuracy in attack that conceding penalties was inevitable. In contrast, Ireland's defence was outstanding, probably the best part of their game. That might sound surprising given they won so well, but the big score was the result of taking every chance that came their way. The work in defence was constant, though, and was the foundation for a big win. There is an awful lot of work left to be done before people get too carried away, though. Nothing is won yet, and nothing will be won easily in London.


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