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Ireland made it twelve consecutive wins at home on Saturday night when they defeated Australia in Dublin.
This equals their best ever run and means they are one win away from beating the record. With a score line of 13-10, it what was a scrappy and slow game, Ireland had to battle and grind out a victory and to their credit they did. Strangely, I think it could be one of the best things that could have happened to Ireland and here’s why.
Ireland lost their talisman and captain Johnny Sexton literally minutes before kick-off due to a calf injury. For those who have read my previous articles, no, it wasn’t me that injured him. Jack Crowley was then promoted to start the game and it was so last minute that jack actually wore Johnny’s jersey. I had wanted Ireland to start Crowley over Johnny during the week because as we all know, when Johnny doesn’t play, Ireland lose a lot of their edge and performances tend to drop. This is a problem we have created ourselves by playing Johnny so much, which is understandable of course, but Ireland need to get some confidence in a potential line up without their leader. This was an ideal world cup simulation. You lost a big player to injury. So what? Next man up.
Crowley has tons of potential but is still so young.
The only reason he is getting this opportunity is because of all the injuries to other players. Which also means that if not for all the injuries, he wouldn’t get any game time at all, which is a shame considering his talent. It needed all these injuries for Ireland to get out of their own way almost. If Johnny started, he would have played 70 minutes at least and Crowley would have come on and before he even knew it, the game would be over, and he wouldn’t have benefited at all from that experience. Ireland would still be in the same place as they were before the game stated.
Now however, we now know that we are not always this incredible team that scores great tries and can dominate teams. We got a kick up the arse and we see that we needed to really dig deep and grind out a win.
Australia were all over Ireland, especially in that first half. They suffocated Ireland of any possession and were camped in the Irish 22.
That is not something Ireland have been accustomed to in the past twelve months. Getting that reminder that even with most of the strongest team Ireland could put out there, they still need to battle and fight to scrape wins, I think will help progress this team even more than a big win would have.
The people that expected a Sexton like performance from Crowley need to come back in from outer space.
I hope they enjoyed zero gravity, but it unfortunately it has clouded your judgement. Sexton is one of the most experienced players in all of world rugby. He is the centre piece of the best team in the world and flourishes in a system that is built around him. You cannot expect a youngster with so few senior appearances for Munster never mind Ireland, to come in and just emulate what Sexton does.
What I am hoping will now happen is that Ireland really learn from that. There are a lot of positives to take from that game. Defensively, especially in the first half, they kept Australia at bay for long periods of time. At one stage Australia went through twenty-one phases and they never looked like breaching past Ireland. Is it ideal to be defending that much? No, but now you know you can do it for long periods of time.
The main learning has to be that a late change didn’t lose you a game. An inexperienced ten came in at the last call and performed well in my opinion and Ireland won the game. Ross Byrne who was the third-choice kicker at the start of the day yesterday, came on and held his nerve to kick a fantastic penalty to win the game. He backed himself and massive credit to him. These players are capable, we just need to give them a chance.
In summary, this game was by no means a classic. It went on for far too long due to the stop start nature of it and the ill-discipline. Ireland were by no means clinical but that’s the point. What team is always at their best? Winning ugly and with different combinations is far more impressive to me than winning when everything is going great.
- A win like that and a battle like that gives me some confidence for a world cup.
I think if Ireland get a bit of luck, they can go really far in a world cup, and I think we will look back at that game on Saturday and point to it as a big moment for Ireland. Strange as it may seem. With all that said a hugely successful year for Ireland and one they should be proud of. The next twelve months are going to exciting and I for one cannot wait.