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Irelands Autumn Internationals

  • 23-11-2021 6:49pm
    Registered Users Posts: 24,745 ✭✭✭✭


    When looking at the games over the last few weeks to try to identify how we can measure how Ireland performed, the score line 29-20 is important. Yes, that’s the score we beat New Zealand by, but that’s not all. There are mitigating factors in all of the games. The Rugby Championship sides are off the back of a long season and a long time on the road away from family and friends. Japan have played very little rugby since the 2019 RWC. These sides were not at their best. I don’t think that can be disputed.

    So in terms of measuring how good the 3 weeks were for Ireland we need to look at how the other Northern Hemisphere sides did against the same opposition. Japan played Scotland. New Zealand played Wales and France. Argentina played France. These are the games we can look at for comparison. I think we should scrap the Wales-New Zealand game. It was outside the international window and Wales were down a good few as a result. So that leaves Scotland’s game against Japan and the 2 French games against Argentina and New Zealand.

    Ireland 29-20 New Zealand

    Scotland 29-20 Japan

    France 29-20 Argentina

    29-20 appears as a thread across the games we need to compare. Now in many ways that’s just an oddity, a coincidence, a strange alignment of numbers on a scoreboard. But in others it presents a kind of baseline. Tight games with single digit margins.


    Ireland vs Japan

    Japan have played 6 Tests so far this year. Excluding Ireland in November, their combined score line for those games was a net loss of 153-122, their only victory coming against Portugal 2 weeks ago. Against Tier 1 opposition (excluding the Lions and the November game in the Aviva) that combined score becomes 100-74. That covers:

    Ireland (Away): 39-31

    Australia (Home): 23-32

    Scotland (Away): 29-20

    All of these are single digit losses. Their loss to the Lions was 28-10, which was the only other time they lost by double digits. None of these come remotely close to the 60-5 score line in the Aviva 3 weeks ago. In fact you have to rewind back to the RWC 2011 to find a time when Japan were beaten more comprehensively than that. The most comparable game to our one 3 weeks ago was the Scotland game this weekend gone. 29-20. Sure, Scotland are a weaker side than Ireland but they still could only manage the same number of points in 80 minutes as we managed in the first 40. Ireland put Japan to the sword in a way no other team has come even remotely close to doing this year. Or for a number of years. And the result looks a long way off the Scottish 29-20.


    Ireland vs New Zealand

    New Zealand have had the most punishing schedule of all the travelling sides this year. 2 weeks off after the Rugby Championship before travelling to the US, then to Wales, then to Italy and then to Ireland before their trip to France. It was pretty crazy when you look at it. But, having won the RC comfortably, they then won the first 3 games of their tour comfortably too. But Ireland dominated the 80 minutes against them in the Aviva. New Zealand snuck a few breakaway scores, but their real stand out on the day was a magnificent defensive display in the first 40 which kept Ireland to a single score. It was an effort they simply couldn’t keep up though and that told in the second half. They went from 5-10 up at half time to losing the second half 24-10. That brings us to our magical 29-20 score.

    Against France it looked like the defensive effort the previous week on top of the hellish schedule had taken its toll and by half-time France led 24-6 (very similar to the second half in Dublin). But New Zealand got back into the game in the second half in a way they never did against Ireland. They actually won that second half by 3 points, 16-19. But that sensational break from Ntmack from his own in-goal, that ultimately led to the Savea card, turned the game when it looked like New Zealand might have been able to push on and win it.


    In the end France won the game by just 6 points more than we had done the previous week. They produced some magical moments that Ireland couldn’t, but on the flip side Ireland dominated the encounter in Dublin in a way that France couldn’t in Paris. That defensive effort from New Zealand in the first 40 in Dublin, on top of all that had gone before, was probably worth a few points to France so I don’t think there was much between the 2 results at all. The 40-25 score isn’t at all far removed from the 29-20.


    Ireland vs Argentina

    Unlike New Zealand, Argentina had 4 weeks off after the Rugby Championship. However, also unlike New Zealand, they effectively had to play the same team 3 weeks running against France, Italy and Ireland. And in that France game they had a massively physical encounter, albeit one where they had to make over 100 tackles less than New Zealand in Dublin. New Zealand were able to rotate over the course of their tour and few, if any, of their players had to play 3 in a row. But playing 3 in a row after a month off shouldn’t be that much of a challenge for a Tier 1 side.

    Yet the difference in results were still incredibly stark. In Paris it was effectively a 1 score game for 65 minutes, with France putting a bit more daylight between the sides in the last 15 or so. In Dublin, despite late disruptions and a shaky start, Ireland had pulled clear after 25 minutes and went on to record Argentina’s biggest defeat since South Africa in 2013. The 29-20 victory for France in Paris is, like the Scottish victory vs Japan, very far removed our 53-7 win over the same opposition.



    In the 3 games most comparable to Irelands, Ireland beat 2 of the opponents in ways that Scotland (in the case of Japan) and France (in the case of Argentina) simply never came close to matching. In the other game, Ireland beat New Zealand by a slightly smaller margin than France and in quite a different way to how France did it. In the first 2 games Ireland absolutely controlled the 80 minutes in full. In the third, after that shaky start, they went on to do the same against Argentina. Nobody else was able to bottle up any of these teams in November in the same way that Ireland did to all of these teams. Whereas Irelands 29-20 victory was very similar to France’s 40-25 victory, the Scottish and French 29-20 victories were a long way off Irelands 60-5 and 53-7 wins.

    We’re not top dogs off the back of this and there is still plenty of work to be done. But regardless of how we compare to the Southern Hemisphere sides (which we just can’t tell right now) we are comparing very favourably to the Northern Hemisphere sides against SH opposition. How that will translate to the 6Ns is another matter. And how this clash of styles between Ireland and France will pan out in Paris is nothing short of fascinating.

    Last month I said I wanted 2 things in particular from this series. I wanted more forwards playing with ball in hand and I wanted more variety to our attacking game generally. I didn’t care too much about results. I got the 2 things I wanted and a clean sweep to boot. So now I want to see us push on from here. To be comfortable being favourites in games against big opposition. To know that we can beat anyone as long as we do our jobs right. To worry about ourselves more than the opposition. Like top teams do. We need to be aiming to be a consistently top team. If we can build that over the next 12-18 months then we’ll be in good shape coming into the RWC in 2023. Yes we still have some personnel and depth issues and things may not go exactly the way we want them to, but we seem to be going in the right direction so we need to continue doing so.


    Roll on February!



  • Registered Users Posts: 8,303 ✭✭✭Dubinusa

    Indeed! We played great! Hungry; fast, physical and ruthless.

    As you said, we still got work to do . The materials are there, just got to use them!

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,023 ✭✭✭Digifriendly

    Ireland as pointed out the most impressive of the teams in AIs. Now challenge is to take that into 6 Nations and next RWC.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,098 ✭✭✭UAEguy2020

    It’s good that we have work to do, the RWC is 2 years away, the worst thing that can happen is be close to our best as things can go stale very quickly.