Ireland 49 Georgia 7
Six tries, some impressive debut turns and a lot of hands going up for World Cup consideration but Joe Schmidt will not have expected anything less from his Ireland players against tier-two nation Georgia yesterday.
No sooner had the final whistle blown at Aviva Stadium on this comprehensive victory over a game, physical outfit sorely missing a cutting edge, than thoughts will have turned to next Saturday’s visit of Australia, the team Ireland have replaced as number three in today’s world rankings issued by the International Rugby Board.
Schmidt dismissed his side’s elevation to such lofty heights as a distraction and while he will have valued the outing his fringe players got at Test level over the weekend, further deepening his options ahead of his selection for Ireland’s World Cup squad in 10 months, this game may also prove to be similarly distracting as the head coach plots the defeat of a second southern hemisphere superpower this month.
With the bulk of his team likely to face Michael Cheika’s Wallabies in five days watching this encounter with Georgia from the stands, Schmidt will quickly park his review of yesterday’s game for a quieter moment over the winter and focus the mind for defeating a team under new management following the departure of Ewen McKenzie four weeks ago, just as his Ireland squad were 12 months ago when Australia ran in four tries against his disjointed new charges in a 32-15 defeat.
Whether that means Cheika’s Australia, having beaten the Barbarians and Wales before losing to France on Saturday night, will arrive in Dublin as vulnerable as Schmidt’s team were last year, though, is another matter.
“I think they are doing certainly a lot of similar things and a lot of the players Cheika has had a pretty major influence on them anyway because he had a number of them, especially the key playmakers, with the Waratahs,” Schmidt said.
“You know it was a little bit like that for me, I knew a lot of the players and for me it was a disappointing result against Australia. The performance as I’ve always contended was a little bit better then the result but the four tries they scored were really disappointing and you just can’t do that in the fine margins that exists in Test match footie.
“As soon as you slip a margin and then you are chasing and if you don’t chase well enough, you will soon slip another one and they will keep going forward because they have the sort of personnel that are capable of doing that.
“I am not sure there is any advantage (for Ireland), there is a six-day turnaround with a Tuesday/Thursday training. Michael Cheika was in the crowd watching today. I am pretty sure the Wallaby team had their feet up doing their recovery while our boys were out running around.
“Having said that, some of our boys were watching the game and it is nice to have them watch a game where the team they like to play for has a decent win and it keeps the pressure on everyone. That helps keep a competitive element within the squad and keeps the squad competitive when it turns up on match-day.”
Whether any of yesterday’s incoming personnel did enough to disrupt the side which defeated South Africa 29-15 nine days ago is debatable but that is not to say the second or third string which took the field against Georgia failed to impress and, as Schmidt suggested, add a degree of incentive to their training this week.
Chief among the positives was the man of the match performance of debutant Dave Foley, the Munster lock taking to Test lineout calling as if to the manor born and offering an aggressive, physical counter to anything the Georgians threw at the Irish during a robust opening half that pegged the home side to three penalties without reply despite dominating possession and territory.
It may be enough to earn Foley a place on the bench behind his mentor Paul O’Connell and Leinster’s Devin Toner at the expense of Mike McCarthy.
Tier-two they may be but the breaking of Georgia only came when scrum-half Giorgi Begadze was sin-binned on the stroke of half-time as the visitors conceded an eighth ruck penalty to try the patience of referee JP Doyle once too often.
Ireland pounced on the opportunity after the break, front rowers Dave Kilcoyne and Richardt Strauss bounding over during the power play, both tries converted by the more than competent fly-half Ian Madigan.
Schmidt will have been irked by the way his team switched off a little when the Georgians returned to their full complement, flanker Giorgi Nemsadze powering through the green line for a try converted by Merab Kvirikashvili. And it took another sin-binning, No.8 Dimitri Basiliaia’s on the hour, for Ireland to turn the screw again as Simon Zebo, once, and the impressive Felix Jones, twice, went over for tries before sub Stuart Olding completed the rout, all of them very well taken with positive collective involvement in their execution.
It certainly made up for the early lack of execution Schmidt drew attention to post-match when asked to address Ireland’s points for improvement against the Wallabies.
“I think the scrum will take another step next week,” he said. “That is part of the progress that you would anticipate.
“In general play, a little bit of the pass accuracy wasn’t bang on. I thought there was a really nice wide pass from Dominic Ryan off his left hand that went about 25 metres across the field and was just a little bit high and stopped Gordon D’Arcy or I think Gordon gets in in the corner. Those are the fine margins that you’ve got to nail against a team that are as a good as Australia are.”
IRELAND: F Jones; C Gilroy, D Cave, G D’Arcy (I Keatley, 63), S Zebo (S Olding, 62); I Madigan, E Reddan – captain (K Marmion, 63); D Kilcoyne, R Strauss (S Cronin, 62), M Ross (R Ah You, 47); D Foley (D Toner, 62), M McCarthy (R Copeland, 62); Dominic Ryan, T O’Donnell, R Diack.
Replacement not used: J McGrath.
GEORGIA: M Kvirikashvili; A Todua, D Kacharava – captain, M Sharikadze, T Mtchedlidze (M Giorgadze, 54); L Khmaladze (L Malaguradze, 54), G Begadze (V Khutsishvili, 57); M Nariashvili (Z Zhvania, 52), S Mamukashvili (S Maisuradze, 52), D Kubriashvili (L Chilachava, 52); K Mikautadze (L Datunashvili, 50), G Nemsadze; G Tkhilaishvili, V Kolelishvili (G Chkhaidze, 57), D Basilaia.
Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)
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