The bodies may be bruised as Ireland continue to recover from their extremely intense encounter with Wales at the weekend but Donnacha Ryan believes the national team got exactly the workout needed to ready themselves for this Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown with England.
Ireland welcome Stuart Lancaster’s resurgent side to the Aviva Stadium this weekend looking to build on the ultimately hard-fought 30-22 victory over last year’s Grand Slam champions Wales at the Millennium Stadium last Saturday.
Having enjoyed a 30-3 lead with 42 minutes gone in Cardiff, thanks in part to tries from Simon Zebo, Cian Healy and man of the match Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland needed sometimes desperate defence against a furious Welsh backlash, particularly when reduced to 14 men for the last 20 minutes following yellow cards for Rory Best and then Conor Murray.
Back row Sean O’Brien contributed 23 and second row Ryan 18 of the 176 tackles Ireland made and, despite Wales canceling out the Irish try count in the last 30 minutes, that massive effort was rewarded with a victory that has supporters already dreaming of a march to a second Grand Slam under Declan Kidney.
After a victory over world champions New Zealand in November and last Saturday’s Six Nations win over Scotland, England might have something to say about that and Ryan is not taking anything for granted.
“It was good to have a game of that incredible intensity going into next weekend and certainly it is another massive challenge for us next week against England,” the Munster lock said. “We are really going to have to do our homework and our reviews from this weekend.
“If selected, this will be my first Six Nations game against England in the Aviva Stadium. England looked really impressive against Scotland, so we are certainly going to have to do our analysis on them and really refocus the mind after this weekend.”
Lineout leader Ryan saw Wales discredit the perception that they were understrength in the second row as debutant Andrew Coombs and the returning Ian Evans made light of the absence through injury of Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies and Ryan Jones. The statistics read that the Welsh enjoyed an 86% success rate on their own throws compared to Ireland’s 72% and Ryan predicted another difficult afternoon ahead this Sunday against the England lineout, which may include the Red Rose’s latest find, Joe Launchbury.
“Wales had their homework done and they were certainly very tight and tactical in that area so there were not too many chances for steals,” Ryan said. “I think England will be even better as they have an impressive lineout and will have a different dynamic to how they run things, so I think we will have our work cut out for us.”
Despite the satisfaction of defeating Wales to end a three-game losing streak against the 2011 World Cup semi-finalists, Ryan said Ireland could not afford to allow other teams back into matches in the manner they let Rob Howley’s side rally at the weekend.
“They were always going to have their purple patch at some point. They are champions for a reason and certainly we were under incredible pressure in the second half, but I thought we fought hard for one another, we really had each others’ backs.
“When we were down to 14 men for large parts of the that second half, I thought the guys really dug in well. The substitutes that came on really made a difference and helped lift the spirits of the team, so it was great all round. Obviously we made some mistakes in that second half which we are going to have to rectify for next week as the games are getting bigger and bigger.”
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