‘Knee-jerk reaction’ to Wales defeat ruled out by Tainton

EXPECT a few tweaks here and there but there will be no “knee-jerk reaction” by the Irish brains trust this week as they digest last Sunday’s defeat to Wales and prepare for this Saturday’s follow-up against the French in Paris.

Keith Earls is back in contention for the 13 jersey and a replacement may well be required for Stephen Ferris depending on the deliberations in London today. But Declan Kidney’s starting side is unlikely to deviate much from last Sunday.

However, there are suggestions the selectors are toying with the idea of moving Jonathan Sexton to inside centre with Ronan O’Gara taking his spot at fly-half.

Meanwhile assistant coach Mark Tainton admitted yesterday there was obvious room for improvement in terms of defence, attack and kicking – the last two of which are the key components of his own portfolio.

“You’ve got to change the game-plan slightly because you’re playing against different personnel and the way their defensive and attack structures work,” he explained.

“But we’re not going to have knee-jerk reactions.”

Players and coaches sat down yesterday to review their opening day defeat to Wales.

Among the to-dos? Line speed in defence was one area where Tainton admitted hands had to be held up, particularly closer to the breakdown, and the memory of Wales driving downfield with such alacrity in the closing stages is one that should certainly instigate improvements.

Tainton expressed an understandable delight in the two tries claimed by Rory Best and Tommy Bowe and, in particular, with how Ireland kept their patience and maintained their depth out wide.

And then there were the must-do-better moments.

“There were times when we were playing more in our own half and we played an awful lot of rugby in our own half. It’s great playing rugby in hand but there are times when we need to relieve pressure, take the pressure off our forwards.”

The extent of Ireland’s task was already obvious given the lamentable record in Paris but the side named by Philippe Saint-Andre only accentuated the enormity of the challenge facing the visitors on Saturday night.

Jean-Baptiste Poux will assume the role of loose-head prop from Vincent Debaty, Dimitri Szarzewski comes in at hooker for William Servat, Yoann Maestri wins his first cap at lock in place of Lionel Nallet while Imanol Harinordoquy takes over from Julian Bonnaire at flanker.

Reserve hooker Sean Cronin summed up the alterations best when talking of the “riches of talent” available to France and the reintroduction of Harinordoquy, in particular, speaks volumes for that very fact.

“It is quite a strong team,” said Tainton just minutes after it was released. “Bringing back Harinordoquy and putting him at six, he’ll bring strength to the team and he’ll strengthen the lineout as well.

“Obviously our own lineout went very well at the weekend and they probably see that as a massive strength of ours, which it is, and it is something they’ll probably be targeting with the team they’ve selected.”

Saint-Andre has left his back line untouched after a four-try salvo against Italy from Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and Wesley Fofana.

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