Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball

Where do Ireland go from here?

At 15-10 at Twickenham on Saturday, Ireland were still very much in the game against England. Lar...

Where do Ireland go from here?

Where do Ireland go from here?

At 15-10 at Twickenham on Saturday, Ireland were still very much in the game against England. Larmour’s early try was an indication of Ireland’s attacking threat on the wing, but after 12 minutes, Cokanasiga’s try brought them back down to earth.

The crucial moment came in the 35th minute when England had a scrum five metres out from the try line. Manu Tuilagi ran into the space that Jacob Stockdale had created by shooting off the line, touching down to make it 20-10.

From there it was a massacre as Ireland’s line-out continued to malfunction, giving England back all the momentum. England’s fourth try came directly from an overthrown lineout from Rory Best. A missed tackle from Tadgh Furlong allowed Maro Itoje to romp through Ireland’s defence and touch down under the posts.

While it was still a warm-up game in the end, a scoreline of 57-15 makes for pretty grim reading four weeks out from the World Cup. While much of the analysis after the game focused on Rory Best due to the disastrous line-out, his wasn't the only sub-par performance on the day.

Speaking on Monday's OTB AM, Alan Quinlan said Jacob Stockdale, CJ Stander and Bundee Aki are all in jeopardy after their performance against England. In the back row, two Leinster men Jack Conan and Rhys Ruddock would be in line behind them if they get the chance to play against Wales.

Photo Credit: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

James Ryan and Devin Toner will certainly replace Jean Kleyn and Iain Henderson when the World Cup comes around. The line-out has been an essential attacking platform for Ireland under Schmidt and as we saw on the weekend against England, when it's not functioning our attacking game falls apart.

Dip in form

The good news is that we still have two games against Wales before the World Cup and if we can salvage some confidence from them we should be in much better shape. It also helps that we don't have England in our group because we would be in serious trouble if that was the case. During the Six Nations, Ireland beat Scotland in Murrayfield without playing particularly well. Even despite the dip in form, Ireland should feel they can beat the Scots in Yokohoma.

The worrying thing is that unlike Ireland's other World Cup collapses this one has come before the tournament has even started. There were signs of a downturn in '07 and '11. But there wasn't the same sense that Ireland were so far behind the rest of the pack tactically. While talk of a Trojan Horse for the World Cup may be a bit unrealistic, you would hope that Ireland will have more variety to their game than one-out runners in Japan.

The key to it all really is Murray and Sexton and if our pack can regain some of its form of last year. It will the give the two of them the platform to control the game like we know they can. If Stockdale is dropped, Conway would make the most sense as his replacement on the wing and with Ringrose and Henshaw as the centre pairing, we would be much more assured defensively.

While our semi-final hoodoo still remains, this team is more than capable of making it that far. The fact that our group isn't the strongest certainly helps, but the biggest factor is who we face in the quarters. While beating either New Zealand and South Africa will not be an easy task, they will offer Ireland a different threat than England did.

Time is running out for this team to improve and while a World Cup is the last thing you want when you are in a slump, the Land of the Rising Sun may just be the place where this team rediscovers the fire that they have been sorely missing.

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