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Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde has praised the province’s forwards that starred for Ireland during the Autumn Nations Series.
Leinster players dominated the starting pack selection for all three November internationals against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina and offered a wide variety of qualities throughout each game.
Seven Leinster forwards started the first two matches against Japan and New Zealand while the front row of Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong was a constant on the team sheet across all three games.
The Irish forward unit combined to score nine out of the nineteen tries the national side scored across the international break – all six forwards that got over the line in green will be back in blue in the coming weeks.
“They’ve kept up the trend really – the forwards are outdoing the backs by 3:1 [16-6] at Leinster here as well,” McBryde said.
“So whether it’s a sign of the times, a big shift in rugby or if the backs need to up their game – I don’t know what it is.
“It’s great to see that cohesion, both here at Leinster and with Ireland really, you know. I’m happy with just winning penalties or winning one against the head in the scrum and what have you but, you know, scoring tries – the more they can do, the better it reflects on the pack’s work really.”
McBryde also noted that he was impressed with other aspects of the forwards’ games during the international break, singling out the driving maul against Argentina.
Driving mauls and break-off runs from these mauls led to five of Ireland’s seven tries in Dublin at the weekend – both directly and indirectly.
On top of their excellence in scoring, the Irish forwards excelled with powerful carries that helped their side gain important metres – stats seen below are all via OptaJonny.
Caelan Doris topped the charts in the Autumn Nations Series with 36 carries to his name, while his teammate Jack Conan racked up 32 in two games – the pair’s numbers make up 45% of Ireland’s total in the three games (152).
Conan committed at least two tacklers from 19 of those carries and was a useful edge forward option in the first two games.
The two Leinster back rowers were also strong presences at rucks – Doris hit 99 rucks in total in the November Internationals, a total shared with Wales and Dragons flanker Taine Basham.
The evolution of forwards from solely three-man-pod crash-ball experts into mobile wide threats has been a trend several national teams have picked up on, including Andy Farrell’s Ireland.
Tadhg Furlong’s role as the wide player in the first pod of two in Ireland’s 1-3-2-2 attack underlines the threat of this tactic.
Furlong, arguably the world’s most complete tighthead, burst through defences several times in all three Autumn Nations Series games with the ball in his hands.
Josh Van Der Flier and Ronan Kelleher must also be commended for their carrying ability, as well as Ryan Baird who excelled against Argentina.
All forwards mentioned are on Leinster’s books and McBryde believes the multi-faceted ability of today’s packs is a huge asset for both province and country.
“You can’t rely on size alone, if you’ve got lemons, you make lemonade. You’re never gonna have the biggest pack ever – here in Leinster or in Ireland really – so you’re gonna have to play to your strengths and I think that’s what Ireland have done in the past month…”
“…that’s what the modern-day forward is all about really – being able to contribute around the field and obviously nailing the set-piece as well.”
Leinster return to action on Saturday night when they welcome Ulster to the RDS Arena for their first interprovincial clash of the season.