Andy Farrell insisted that Ireland’s defensive lapses against Scotland were not system errors, but fixable individual mistakes after escaping Murrayfield with a 27-24 win.
Ireland had let slip a 24-10 lead early in the second half as Scotland roared back to level the game at 24-24 with less than 20 minutes to go, through tries from Huw Jones and Hamish Watson.
Captain Johnny Sexton, who rescued victory with a late penalty, called the concession of the second-half tries “soft”, with Jones’ score in particular exposing poor defence on the outside edges from full-back Hugo Keenan and wing James Lowe.
The official Guinness Six Nations match statistics backed that up, pointing to nearly 30% of tackles missed by the Irish back three, which also included Keith Earls.
“I think the try [from Jones] that got them back into the game was just a simple one-on-one miss,” said Farrell. “That wasn’t a system error.
“You would expect a bit more missed tackles on the edge because of the nature in the space in the one-on-ones, but 30% [missed] is not good enough.”
“All credit to Scotland. They’ve some big, strong backs, haven’t they, with pace as well, and they were always going to be a threat and that’s why we talked about during the week, making sure that we made our two-man tackles and made sure that we hit forwards going back so that we could contain the backs. Obviously that’s something that we need to look at.”
Farrell had earlier said he would be sitting down with Lowe and other inexperienced Test players to educate and help them in their defensive duties.
With just six days to prepare for the final game of the championship, at home to England this Saturday, Farrell was asked at what point the level of individual errors would become selection issues rather than a need to coach players more.
“Well, we look at all sorts of stuff obviously, the rest of the squad, the form that they’re in, and how they’re training as well, whether we’re seeing the progression, and sometimes it doesn’t always translate to the field,” he said.
“So we’ll sit down and analyse the game and work accordingly this week.”
Ireland could be without James Ryan for Saturday’s final game after the lock was removed 10 minutes from time for a Head Injury Assessment. With just a six-day turnaround between games, Ryan may not be able to complete his return-to-play protocols.
“James Ryan had a HIA check,” said Farrell.
“We’ll see. I don’t know what the protocol has been like after the game, but there was a check there.”