Spend almost four months covering one squad of players and dominant themes quickly emerge. One of the most prominent with Ireland since early July has been the regular claim that attacking opportunities are far more limited in modern test rugby these days than they were 10 or even five years ago.
It became an accepted fact, unquestioned by all. Argentina proved that to be untrue on Sunday at the Millennium Stadium. So did New Zealand the evening before while Australia did further damage to it as a theory with their scintillating dismissal of England in Twickenham some weeks before.
Others have shown space on the rugby pitch need not be measured in inches and Dave Kearney witnessed first-hand the damage that can be done by a side willing and able to spread the ball wider with a zip and a purpose that Six Nations sides seem unable to match.
“They moved the ball wide a lot and we felt pretty stretched on the edge”, said the Leinster wing who continually found himself roaming infield during this World Cup to get his hands on the ball. “We just felt they had a lot of space to work with out wide. It’s part of that line-speed thing again. I don’t think our line speed was as good as it was last week. We got in their faces against the French and it really paid off, but we were too slow to do that today,” he said.
Argentina’s success in out manoeuvring Ireland’s defensive line was predicated on their ferociousness at the breakdown. Coaches always talk about the right to ‘earn the right’ to spread the ball and that is exactly what they did.
It helps, too, when a team has a back three comprising the sublime Joaquin Tuculet at full-back and Juan Imhoff and Santiago Cordero on the wings, though Kearney was unsure as to why they caused so much damage.
“I don’t know, to be honest. We’ll have to look back at the game and see why. I suppose it comes back to the defensive issue, I suppose. We probably got a bit tight at times inside and in and around the ruck. One pass was taking out four or five of our players and suddenly we were finding ourselves defending a two or three-man overlap. It’s tough to deal with situations like that when they have the guys that they do on the edge.”
Lessons to be learned, surely.
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