Ireland head coach Andy Farrell prefers to look forward rather than back so he won’t dwell unduly on Ireland’s accomplishment of beating South Africa, Fiji and Australia but will drill into the detail of performance issues that need to be addressed in the pursuit of development.
One of those is the kicking/aerial game, which has been substandard during the Autumn Nations Series, most pointedly probably in the game at the weekend. Australia manufactured huge currency through wing Mark Nawaqanitawase who ruled the skies when fielding box-kicks or crosskicks. He was excellent in that capacity, and many other aspects of the game, in a high-quality display.
There were times, though, when Ireland should have done better, Jimmy O’Brien and Mack Hansen in need of greater attention to their high ball work. It’s obviously something that teams have identified as an area in which they can stress Ireland, a perception that Farrell, along with the players, will be keen to change.
Ireland’s kicking game was also a little off-colour at times, box-kicks, clearances, penalties to touch and the occasional aimless hoof, causing the team a few problems that could have been avoided with better execution; albeit acknowledging that some of the players are novices in Test terms and have generally acquitted themselves extremely well.
James Lowe might have found a new vocation. Well for now let’s just say he whiled away a couple of hours as co-commentator during the Leinster YouTube feed of their match against Chile at Energia Park on Friday.
The Leinster and Ireland international wing who is currently out injured was part of the two-man commentary team alongside Justin Middleton – we won’t pass any critical judgment on mixing up the Liffey and the Dodder rivers – for a match in which a young Leinster side, bolstered by some club players, beat Chile 40-3, scoring six tries in the process.
Lowe brought a nice touch of expertise and humour to the commentary. “I would guess what the boys are going to do but I haven’t got anything right yet so I will leave it up to Charlie Tector to decide.”
On another occasion he came clean about his scrum knowledge when he suggested: “I have absolutely no knowledge about what is going on between the two front rows.” Roughly 6,200 watched the livestream in terms of peak viewing and would have seen some good performances, not least from some of the club contingent.
Clontarf’s Cormac Daly had a fine game in the secondrow while Terenure College’s Conall Boomer was arguably the pick of the Leinster forwards. The openside flanker, who was part of the Irish 20s squad that reached the 2016 Under-20 Junior World Cup final, has made a huge impression since moving down from Ballynahinch to join the Dublin club.
Word of Mouth
“Ireland’s a great team, they’re number one so we knew how hard it was going to be and how tough it was. That’s what it was, a tough game and a good Test match and it went down to the wire. Unfortunately, we’ve ended up on the wrong end so it’s a bitter taste.” Australian captain James Slipper magnanimous in defeat.
By the Numbers – 50
The number in the Australian rugby party that ventured up to Johnnie Fox’s on Sunday at lunchtime to chill out after a tough 13-10 defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. The Wallabies were happy to accommodate photographs with the locals at the popular venue, while sampling the local fare and, one suspects for some, a few pints of porter.
Pivac under pressure
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said he would leave it up to others to decide whether he should stay on after his team’s shock 13-12 defeat to Georgia at the Principality Stadium (they will meet again in a pool match in the World Cup in France next year). The victory marked Georgia’s second win this year over a Six Nations Championship country after they beat Italy in July.
The New Zealander is under huge pressure following an eighth Welsh defeat in 11 Tests this year with former captain Sam Warburton and centre Jamie Roberts voicing their concern about where the national side is going. Pivac said that his priority is preparing the team for next weekend’s game against Australia.
Wales led 12-3 against Georgia at half-time with Jac Morgan scoring two tries but a try from Alexander Todua and a late penalty from Luka Matkava sealed a famous win for the visitors. Whatever happens to Pivac, one person not in the running is current French defence coach Shaun Edwards, a role he previously filled with Wales.
He has signed a new contract to remain with France through to the 2027 World Cup. Edwards confirmed: “Fabien Galthié asked in September if I’d be interested in staying on for a few more years and the FFR followed up by putting a long-term contract in front of me. It’s all done and dusted, so now I can just focus on my job.
“I will always keep an open mind about coaching England, or maybe returning to Wales, but now my sole focus is on France. At some point in future, I’d like to make that step up to head coach at international level. I’m 56 years old and I’d like to coach into my 70s.”