Jared Payne insists Ireland will continue to do whatever it takes to win Test matches, regardless of the views of fellow Kiwi and All Black coach Steve Hansen who this week painted the Six Nations champions as a defensive, low-risk side.
Hansen, a former Wales head coach, was asked for his views on the Wales-Ireland clash on Saturday week, and speculated that Ireland “aren’t going to play much rugby” but instead kick to corners, box kick and force penalties from the opposition.
As they did against England, he added.
Ireland were actually more adventurous in the autumn against southern hemisphere opposition, and Payne was asked yesterday whether he had any opinion on the tighter nature of the Six Nations thus far, especially in light of Hansen’s observations.
“It’s different conditions and there are a whole lot of different factors, aren’t there? The fact is that defences have been getting a lot better and if there is a weakness in the opposition’s aerial game, you got to it, don’t you?
“And if it’s working, there’s no point in changing it,” he pointed out after Ireland’s open training session in Belfast. “So, people can say what they want, we’re happy enough with what we’re doing and we’ll keep plugging away.”
Payne was in agreement when it was suggested that more gaps could develop as the tournament wears on, not because of the calibre of opposition but rather the strengthening of his burgeoning reputation, with Robbie Henshaw in the midfield.
The pair have gelled impressively, although Payne is insistent that there are still a number of areas where he personally needs to touch up his game at this level.
A reserved sort — at least with a microphone levelled at him — Payne recovered sufficiently from his “wee bang on the head” against England last Sunday to take part in yesterday’s training session alongside fellow concussion casualty Sean O’Brien. The hits are sure to keep on coming in eight days time when he plays in the Millennium Stadium for the first time and faces a Welsh back line that ranks among the biggest and most talented in the game.
He knows what to expect.
“Jamie (Roberts) is obviously a very big ball carrier isn’t he? He’s pretty direct and Jonathan Davies is a class player. He’s got all the skills, he’s a very good attacker and a good defender.
“He’s got a handy left foot kicking as well. We’re going to have to prepare for everything. They’re pretty direct at 12 and 13 but with subtle skills as well.”
Ireland accuracy impresses Howley
Rob Howley believes Ireland’s unrelenting accuracy “in everything they do” has helped make them such a force during Joe Schmidt’s reign.
“They are accurate in everything that they do and they put sides under pressure,” said Wales assistant coach Howley, who confirmed that skipper Sam Warburton will be “fit and available” after he took a blow to his knee and went off during victory over France last Saturday.
“The key to any international game is putting sides under pressure, whether through the kicking game, keeping hold of the ball or the driving lineout, which was a fantastic part of their game last year when they beat us at the Aviva Stadium.
“Small margins in the international game have big consequences, and they limit their errors compared to other teams in the Six Nations.
“The challenge is for us to make fewer errors. That is not from a negative perspective in terms of not playing — we want to go out and play and will make errors — but it’s limiting them in terms of skill, kicking accuracy and our tackles.”
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