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Now for le backlash

Six Nations

By Donal Lenihan
FOR A tournament that has been all too predictable in recent years, the competition could not have had a better opening weekend.

Over the past few seasons, Scotland and Italy have been the perennial basement sides. That may be about to change.

Scotland’s outstanding victory yesterday over tournament favourites France at Murrayfield has blown the Six Nations wide open. Quite what it has done for Eddie O’Sullivan remains to be seen. While Scotland proved there are rewards for taking on the French up front, inevitably there will be a backlash. It may prove unfortunate timing that Ireland are in Paris next Saturday.

Scotland were full value for their win and new coach Frank Hadden has rekindled the passion and organisation within the squad. Their defence, in particular, was heroic and forced the French backs into countless handling errors. The good news for Ireland is that Yannick Jauzion, who missed yesterday’s game, is also out next Saturday. Never before was his value to Bernard Laporte’s side more pronounced.

England’s win over Wales in Twickenham was expected given the horrendous Welsh injury toll.

However, the margin and quality of England’s victory was an eye opener.

Like Scotland, Italy came to Lansdowne Road with no respect for reputation.

They say fortune favours the brave. I don’t think the Italians will buy that.

With 20 minutes to go, the inspirational Italian national anthem "Il Canto Delgi Italiani" reverberated around Lansdowne Road from the sizeable Italian support. It was a passionate response to match the performance of their players on the field.

New coach Pierre Berbizier has taken the well-worn Italian blueprint and torn it to shreds. While their forwards performed with customary zeal, their backs displayed more adventure than we have seen at any stage since their arrival in this tournament. By way of contrast, Ireland never established any semblance of control or continuity, resulting in an extremely disjointed performance.

The turning point was when debutant referee Dave Pearson awarded a try to Tommy Bowe in the old Lansdowne clubhouse corner just as Ramiro Pez was concluding his sojourn in the sin-bin. Despite Italian protestations, Pearson refused to consult the television match official. Given that Bowe never grounded the ball, Pearson got it badly wrong. With an element of doubt also surrounding Jerry Flannery’s opening try, the Italians can feel justifiably hard done by.

Over the years, Italy have been badly served by a succession of referees who can never be accused of championing the underdog. Ireland may have used all their get out of jail cards in the opening game.

Not for the first time, these early kick-offs seemed to do nothing for the mental preparation of the Ireland players. With six Munster forwards in the starting line-up, the passion and commitment that characterised the recent victory over Sale was strangely absent. It certainly doesn’t help when the team takes to the field facing a largely empty East Stand. Thomond Park it certainly wasn’t.

The flatness in the stands was replicated on the field. Early on, Ireland’s lineout stuttered badly, with Flannery misfiring on his opening two throws. To his immense credit, he showed tremendous character in recovering from that nervous start with a fine performance in broken play. Around him only Paul O’Connell rose above the mediocrity.

While it was clear that Ireland intended to play to the talents of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, it seemed at times as if the backs and forwards were playing as two separate entities. In this respect, the balance in the back row needs to be looked at. David Wallace is absolutely deserving of his place in this side but his placement depends on the type of game you wish to play.

If you aspire to a wide game, you need a continuity player at No.7, a la Shane Jennings or Keith Gleeson.

Wallace is Ireland’s most dynamic ball carrier and needs to be utilised as such.

In the opening half, the most dominant figure on the field was the much-maligned Italian out-half Ramiro Pez. If this guy is only third choice out-half for Munster’s Heineken Cup opponents Perpignan, then Declan Kidney’s men had better watch out. His kicking was outstanding and his distribution skills drew a response from the Italian backs that we had not seen before. His decisive break also set up their opening try for Mirco Bergamasco.

The most worrying aspect was Ireland’s inability to control the breakdown.

The Italians succeeded in slowing down Irish ball.

One could understand the frustrations of O’Driscoll as captain, yet it was up to the forwards to sort out the problem.

They didn’t.

Prior to this game, Eddie O’Sullivan’s team selection enjoyed almost universal approval. There was no question that the team was selected on recent form. The performance therefore was hugely disappointing.

Too many players are willing to pass the baton of responsibility to O’Driscoll and O’Connell. With the exception of Bowe and Flannery, Ireland have one of the most experienced sides in the championship. Malcolm O’Kelly is Ireland’s most capped player of all time. He needs to use that experience to alleviate the pressure on O’Connell. The French will certainly target the Munster man. He needs more from those around him.

On Saturday, Ireland allowed themselves to be bullied by an Italian team who revelled in the fight. If they allow France to do the same next weekend, it could be a long day at the Stade de France.

Scotland showed that with an aggressive defence, a well-organised driving maul and a passionate self-belief, France are beatable.

It should prove a busy week for the Irish management.

 

Now for le backlash

Six Nations

By Donal Lenihan
FOR A tournament that has been all too predictable in recent years, the competition could not have had a better opening weekend.

Over the past few seasons, Scotland and Italy have been the perennial basement sides. That may be about to change.

Scotland’s outstanding victory yesterday over tournament favourites France at Murrayfield has blown the Six Nations wide open. Quite what it has done for Eddie O’Sullivan remains to be seen. While Scotland proved there are rewards for taking on the French up front, inevitably there will be a backlash. It may prove unfortunate timing that Ireland are in Paris next Saturday.

Scotland were full value for their win and new coach Frank Hadden has rekindled the passion and organisation within the squad. Their defence, in particular, was heroic and forced the French backs into countless handling errors. The good news for Ireland is that Yannick Jauzion, who missed yesterday’s game, is also out next Saturday. Never before was his value to Bernard Laporte’s side more pronounced.

England’s win over Wales in Twickenham was expected given the horrendous Welsh injury toll.

However, the margin and quality of England’s victory was an eye opener.

Like Scotland, Italy came to Lansdowne Road with no respect for reputation.

They say fortune favours the brave. I don’t think the Italians will buy that.

With 20 minutes to go, the inspirational Italian national anthem "Il Canto Delgi Italiani" reverberated around Lansdowne Road from the sizeable Italian support. It was a passionate response to match the performance of their players on the field.

New coach Pierre Berbizier has taken the well-worn Italian blueprint and torn it to shreds. While their forwards performed with customary zeal, their backs displayed more adventure than we have seen at any stage since their arrival in this tournament. By way of contrast, Ireland never established any semblance of control or continuity, resulting in an extremely disjointed performance.

The turning point was when debutant referee Dave Pearson awarded a try to Tommy Bowe in the old Lansdowne clubhouse corner just as Ramiro Pez was concluding his sojourn in the sin-bin. Despite Italian protestations, Pearson refused to consult the television match official. Given that Bowe never grounded the ball, Pearson got it badly wrong. With an element of doubt also surrounding Jerry Flannery’s opening try, the Italians can feel justifiably hard done by.

Over the years, Italy have been badly served by a succession of referees who can never be accused of championing the underdog. Ireland may have used all their get out of jail cards in the opening game.

Not for the first time, these early kick-offs seemed to do nothing for the mental preparation of the Ireland players. With six Munster forwards in the starting line-up, the passion and commitment that characterised the recent victory over Sale was strangely absent. It certainly doesn’t help when the team takes to the field facing a largely empty East Stand. Thomond Park it certainly wasn’t.

The flatness in the stands was replicated on the field. Early on, Ireland’s lineout stuttered badly, with Flannery misfiring on his opening two throws. To his immense credit, he showed tremendous character in recovering from that nervous start with a fine performance in broken play. Around him only Paul O’Connell rose above the mediocrity.

While it was clear that Ireland intended to play to the talents of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, it seemed at times as if the backs and forwards were playing as two separate entities. In this respect, the balance in the back row needs to be looked at. David Wallace is absolutely deserving of his place in this side but his placement depends on the type of game you wish to play.

If you aspire to a wide game, you need a continuity player at No.7, a la Shane Jennings or Keith Gleeson.

Wallace is Ireland’s most dynamic ball carrier and needs to be utilised as such.

In the opening half, the most dominant figure on the field was the much-maligned Italian out-half Ramiro Pez. If this guy is only third choice out-half for Munster’s Heineken Cup opponents Perpignan, then Declan Kidney’s men had better watch out. His kicking was outstanding and his distribution skills drew a response from the Italian backs that we had not seen before. His decisive break also set up their opening try for Mirco Bergamasco.

The most worrying aspect was Ireland’s inability to control the breakdown.

The Italians succeeded in slowing down Irish ball.

One could understand the frustrations of O’Driscoll as captain, yet it was up to the forwards to sort out the problem.

They didn’t.

Prior to this game, Eddie O’Sullivan’s team selection enjoyed almost universal approval. There was no question that the team was selected on recent form. The performance therefore was hugely disappointing.

Too many players are willing to pass the baton of responsibility to O’Driscoll and O’Connell. With the exception of Bowe and Flannery, Ireland have one of the most experienced sides in the championship. Malcolm O’Kelly is Ireland’s most capped player of all time. He needs to use that experience to alleviate the pressure on O’Connell. The French will certainly target the Munster man. He needs more from those around him.

On Saturday, Ireland allowed themselves to be bullied by an Italian team who revelled in the fight. If they allow France to do the same next weekend, it could be a long day at the Stade de France.

Scotland showed that with an aggressive defence, a well-organised driving maul and a passionate self-belief, France are beatable.

It should prove a busy week for the Irish management.

 

Now for le backlash

Six Nations

By Donal Lenihan
FOR A tournament that has been all too predictable in recent years, the competition could not have had a better opening weekend.

Over the past few seasons, Scotland and Italy have been the perennial basement sides. That may be about to change.

Scotland’s outstanding victory yesterday over tournament favourites France at Murrayfield has blown the Six Nations wide open. Quite what it has done for Eddie O’Sullivan remains to be seen. While Scotland proved there are rewards for taking on the French up front, inevitably there will be a backlash. It may prove unfortunate timing that Ireland are in Paris next Saturday.

Scotland were full value for their win and new coach Frank Hadden has rekindled the passion and organisation within the squad. Their defence, in particular, was heroic and forced the French backs into countless handling errors. The good news for Ireland is that Yannick Jauzion, who missed yesterday’s game, is also out next Saturday. Never before was his value to Bernard Laporte’s side more pronounced.

England’s win over Wales in Twickenham was expected given the horrendous Welsh injury toll.

However, the margin and quality of England’s victory was an eye opener.

Like Scotland, Italy came to Lansdowne Road with no respect for reputation.

They say fortune favours the brave. I don’t think the Italians will buy that.

With 20 minutes to go, the inspirational Italian national anthem "Il Canto Delgi Italiani" reverberated around Lansdowne Road from the sizeable Italian support. It was a passionate response to match the performance of their players on the field.

New coach Pierre Berbizier has taken the well-worn Italian blueprint and torn it to shreds. While their forwards performed with customary zeal, their backs displayed more adventure than we have seen at any stage since their arrival in this tournament. By way of contrast, Ireland never established any semblance of control or continuity, resulting in an extremely disjointed performance.

The turning point was when debutant referee Dave Pearson awarded a try to Tommy Bowe in the old Lansdowne clubhouse corner just as Ramiro Pez was concluding his sojourn in the sin-bin. Despite Italian protestations, Pearson refused to consult the television match official. Given that Bowe never grounded the ball, Pearson got it badly wrong. With an element of doubt also surrounding Jerry Flannery’s opening try, the Italians can feel justifiably hard done by.

Over the years, Italy have been badly served by a succession of referees who can never be accused of championing the underdog. Ireland may have used all their get out of jail cards in the opening game.

Not for the first time, these early kick-offs seemed to do nothing for the mental preparation of the Ireland players. With six Munster forwards in the starting line-up, the passion and commitment that characterised the recent victory over Sale was strangely absent. It certainly doesn’t help when the team takes to the field facing a largely empty East Stand. Thomond Park it certainly wasn’t.

The flatness in the stands was replicated on the field. Early on, Ireland’s lineout stuttered badly, with Flannery misfiring on his opening two throws. To his immense credit, he showed tremendous character in recovering from that nervous start with a fine performance in broken play. Around him only Paul O’Connell rose above the mediocrity.

While it was clear that Ireland intended to play to the talents of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, it seemed at times as if the backs and forwards were playing as two separate entities. In this respect, the balance in the back row needs to be looked at. David Wallace is absolutely deserving of his place in this side but his placement depends on the type of game you wish to play.

If you aspire to a wide game, you need a continuity player at No.7, a la Shane Jennings or Keith Gleeson.

Wallace is Ireland’s most dynamic ball carrier and needs to be utilised as such.

In the opening half, the most dominant figure on the field was the much-maligned Italian out-half Ramiro Pez. If this guy is only third choice out-half for Munster’s Heineken Cup opponents Perpignan, then Declan Kidney’s men had better watch out. His kicking was outstanding and his distribution skills drew a response from the Italian backs that we had not seen before. His decisive break also set up their opening try for Mirco Bergamasco.

The most worrying aspect was Ireland’s inability to control the breakdown.

The Italians succeeded in slowing down Irish ball.

One could understand the frustrations of O’Driscoll as captain, yet it was up to the forwards to sort out the problem.

They didn’t.

Prior to this game, Eddie O’Sullivan’s team selection enjoyed almost universal approval. There was no question that the team was selected on recent form. The performance therefore was hugely disappointing.

Too many players are willing to pass the baton of responsibility to O’Driscoll and O’Connell. With the exception of Bowe and Flannery, Ireland have one of the most experienced sides in the championship. Malcolm O’Kelly is Ireland’s most capped player of all time. He needs to use that experience to alleviate the pressure on O’Connell. The French will certainly target the Munster man. He needs more from those around him.

On Saturday, Ireland allowed themselves to be bullied by an Italian team who revelled in the fight. If they allow France to do the same next weekend, it could be a long day at the Stade de France.

Scotland showed that with an aggressive defence, a well-organised driving maul and a passionate self-belief, France are beatable.

It should prove a busy week for the Irish management.

 

Now for le backlash

Six Nations

By Donal Lenihan
FOR A tournament that has been all too predictable in recent years, the competition could not have had a better opening weekend.

Over the past few seasons, Scotland and Italy have been the perennial basement sides. That may be about to change.

Scotland’s outstanding victory yesterday over tournament favourites France at Murrayfield has blown the Six Nations wide open. Quite what it has done for Eddie O’Sullivan remains to be seen. While Scotland proved there are rewards for taking on the French up front, inevitably there will be a backlash. It may prove unfortunate timing that Ireland are in Paris next Saturday.

Scotland were full value for their win and new coach Frank Hadden has rekindled the passion and organisation within the squad. Their defence, in particular, was heroic and forced the French backs into countless handling errors. The good news for Ireland is that Yannick Jauzion, who missed yesterday’s game, is also out next Saturday. Never before was his value to Bernard Laporte’s side more pronounced.

England’s win over Wales in Twickenham was expected given the horrendous Welsh injury toll.

However, the margin and quality of England’s victory was an eye opener.

Like Scotland, Italy came to Lansdowne Road with no respect for reputation.

They say fortune favours the brave. I don’t think the Italians will buy that.

With 20 minutes to go, the inspirational Italian national anthem "Il Canto Delgi Italiani" reverberated around Lansdowne Road from the sizeable Italian support. It was a passionate response to match the performance of their players on the field.

New coach Pierre Berbizier has taken the well-worn Italian blueprint and torn it to shreds. While their forwards performed with customary zeal, their backs displayed more adventure than we have seen at any stage since their arrival in this tournament. By way of contrast, Ireland never established any semblance of control or continuity, resulting in an extremely disjointed performance.

The turning point was when debutant referee Dave Pearson awarded a try to Tommy Bowe in the old Lansdowne clubhouse corner just as Ramiro Pez was concluding his sojourn in the sin-bin. Despite Italian protestations, Pearson refused to consult the television match official. Given that Bowe never grounded the ball, Pearson got it badly wrong. With an element of doubt also surrounding Jerry Flannery’s opening try, the Italians can feel justifiably hard done by.

Over the years, Italy have been badly served by a succession of referees who can never be accused of championing the underdog. Ireland may have used all their get out of jail cards in the opening game.

Not for the first time, these early kick-offs seemed to do nothing for the mental preparation of the Ireland players. With six Munster forwards in the starting line-up, the passion and commitment that characterised the recent victory over Sale was strangely absent. It certainly doesn’t help when the team takes to the field facing a largely empty East Stand. Thomond Park it certainly wasn’t.

The flatness in the stands was replicated on the field. Early on, Ireland’s lineout stuttered badly, with Flannery misfiring on his opening two throws. To his immense credit, he showed tremendous character in recovering from that nervous start with a fine performance in broken play. Around him only Paul O’Connell rose above the mediocrity.

While it was clear that Ireland intended to play to the talents of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, it seemed at times as if the backs and forwards were playing as two separate entities. In this respect, the balance in the back row needs to be looked at. David Wallace is absolutely deserving of his place in this side but his placement depends on the type of game you wish to play.

If you aspire to a wide game, you need a continuity player at No.7, a la Shane Jennings or Keith Gleeson.

Wallace is Ireland’s most dynamic ball carrier and needs to be utilised as such.

In the opening half, the most dominant figure on the field was the much-maligned Italian out-half Ramiro Pez. If this guy is only third choice out-half for Munster’s Heineken Cup opponents Perpignan, then Declan Kidney’s men had better watch out. His kicking was outstanding and his distribution skills drew a response from the Italian backs that we had not seen before. His decisive break also set up their opening try for Mirco Bergamasco.

The most worrying aspect was Ireland’s inability to control the breakdown.

The Italians succeeded in slowing down Irish ball.

One could understand the frustrations of O’Driscoll as captain, yet it was up to the forwards to sort out the problem.

They didn’t.

Prior to this game, Eddie O’Sullivan’s team selection enjoyed almost universal approval. There was no question that the team was selected on recent form. The performance therefore was hugely disappointing.

Too many players are willing to pass the baton of responsibility to O’Driscoll and O’Connell. With the exception of Bowe and Flannery, Ireland have one of the most experienced sides in the championship. Malcolm O’Kelly is Ireland’s most capped player of all time. He needs to use that experience to alleviate the pressure on O’Connell. The French will certainly target the Munster man. He needs more from those around him.

On Saturday, Ireland allowed themselves to be bullied by an Italian team who revelled in the fight. If they allow France to do the same next weekend, it could be a long day at the Stade de France.

Scotland showed that with an aggressive defence, a well-organised driving maul and a passionate self-belief, France are beatable.

It should prove a busy week for the Irish management.

 

Now for le backlash

Six Nations

By Donal Lenihan
FOR A tournament that has been all too predictable in recent years, the competition could not have had a better opening weekend.

Over the past few seasons, Scotland and Italy have been the perennial basement sides. That may be about to change.

Scotland’s outstanding victory yesterday over tournament favourites France at Murrayfield has blown the Six Nations wide open. Quite what it has done for Eddie O’Sullivan remains to be seen. While Scotland proved there are rewards for taking on the French up front, inevitably there will be a backlash. It may prove unfortunate timing that Ireland are in Paris next Saturday.

Scotland were full value for their win and new coach Frank Hadden has rekindled the passion and organisation within the squad. Their defence, in particular, was heroic and forced the French backs into countless handling errors. The good news for Ireland is that Yannick Jauzion, who missed yesterday’s game, is also out next Saturday. Never before was his value to Bernard Laporte’s side more pronounced.

England’s win over Wales in Twickenham was expected given the horrendous Welsh injury toll.

However, the margin and quality of England’s victory was an eye opener.

Like Scotland, Italy came to Lansdowne Road with no respect for reputation.

They say fortune favours the brave. I don’t think the Italians will buy that.

With 20 minutes to go, the inspirational Italian national anthem "Il Canto Delgi Italiani" reverberated around Lansdowne Road from the sizeable Italian support. It was a passionate response to match the performance of their players on the field.

New coach Pierre Berbizier has taken the well-worn Italian blueprint and torn it to shreds. While their forwards performed with customary zeal, their backs displayed more adventure than we have seen at any stage since their arrival in this tournament. By way of contrast, Ireland never established any semblance of control or continuity, resulting in an extremely disjointed performance.

The turning point was when debutant referee Dave Pearson awarded a try to Tommy Bowe in the old Lansdowne clubhouse corner just as Ramiro Pez was concluding his sojourn in the sin-bin. Despite Italian protestations, Pearson refused to consult the television match official. Given that Bowe never grounded the ball, Pearson got it badly wrong. With an element of doubt also surrounding Jerry Flannery’s opening try, the Italians can feel justifiably hard done by.

Over the years, Italy have been badly served by a succession of referees who can never be accused of championing the underdog. Ireland may have used all their get out of jail cards in the opening game.

Not for the first time, these early kick-offs seemed to do nothing for the mental preparation of the Ireland players. With six Munster forwards in the starting line-up, the passion and commitment that characterised the recent victory over Sale was strangely absent. It certainly doesn’t help when the team takes to the field facing a largely empty East Stand. Thomond Park it certainly wasn’t.

The flatness in the stands was replicated on the field. Early on, Ireland’s lineout stuttered badly, with Flannery misfiring on his opening two throws. To his immense credit, he showed tremendous character in recovering from that nervous start with a fine performance in broken play. Around him only Paul O’Connell rose above the mediocrity.

While it was clear that Ireland intended to play to the talents of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, it seemed at times as if the backs and forwards were playing as two separate entities. In this respect, the balance in the back row needs to be looked at. David Wallace is absolutely deserving of his place in this side but his placement depends on the type of game you wish to play.

If you aspire to a wide game, you need a continuity player at No.7, a la Shane Jennings or Keith Gleeson.

Wallace is Ireland’s most dynamic ball carrier and needs to be utilised as such.

In the opening half, the most dominant figure on the field was the much-maligned Italian out-half Ramiro Pez. If this guy is only third choice out-half for Munster’s Heineken Cup opponents Perpignan, then Declan Kidney’s men had better watch out. His kicking was outstanding and his distribution skills drew a response from the Italian backs that we had not seen before. His decisive break also set up their opening try for Mirco Bergamasco.

The most worrying aspect was Ireland’s inability to control the breakdown.

The Italians succeeded in slowing down Irish ball.

One could understand the frustrations of O’Driscoll as captain, yet it was up to the forwards to sort out the problem.

They didn’t.

Prior to this game, Eddie O’Sullivan’s team selection enjoyed almost universal approval. There was no question that the team was selected on recent form. The performance therefore was hugely disappointing.

Too many players are willing to pass the baton of responsibility to O’Driscoll and O’Connell. With the exception of Bowe and Flannery, Ireland have one of the most experienced sides in the championship. Malcolm O’Kelly is Ireland’s most capped player of all time. He needs to use that experience to alleviate the pressure on O’Connell. The French will certainly target the Munster man. He needs more from those around him.

On Saturday, Ireland allowed themselves to be bullied by an Italian team who revelled in the fight. If they allow France to do the same next weekend, it could be a long day at the Stade de France.

Scotland showed that with an aggressive defence, a well-organised driving maul and a passionate self-belief, France are beatable.

It should prove a busy week for the Irish management.