On a lovely spring day this Irish team finally found the try line. Up to this point, they had only scored two tries in the whole tournament and both of these had come from close range from Conor Murray. However before we get ahead of ourselves (as we usually do as a nation after a win), we have to be aware of how bad this Italian team was. Firstly, they had huge injury issues, worse than even ourselves. On top of this they allowed the Irish team space on the ball that no other team in the 6 Nations have, or will in the form of Scotland next weekend. So despite the big scoreline, it is difficult to know what to interpret from the game. I do not agree with the calls following the game to review whether Italy should remain in tehe tournament, but perhaps including some other nations like Georgia and Romania and having a 2 tiered tournament with relegation could help with boosting excitement near the bottom of the table. But that is for others to decide. But after a match like the one on Saturday it is hard to know if either team gains much.
One thing that Ireland will gain is confidence. After failing to win three games in a row (albeit one was a draw), you could see that Ireland looked disappointed and short of confidence. A team doesn’t become bad overnight but when you are missing so many players through injury and you’ve lost two of your team’s biggest leaders, when results start going wrong, it can start a spiral downwards. So in that regards it was nice to see the players score tries and look happy following the full time whistle.
My one concern would be how Italy got their tries. On the one hand it is easy to see why Ireland took their foot off the pedal. When you are winning so comfortably and you know that any score conceeded is not going to make a difference. It is understandable that players won’t put their bodies on the line as much if the game is essentially over competitively, but at the same time it is difficult to imagine the big 3 teams conceeding those tries against the same opposition. Another slightly worrying sight was that the tries came from Ireland’s lack of width in defence. This same issue was highlighted when Argenina beat us in the World Cup.
Despite all this, some of the tries on Saturday were really beautiful tries. Especially Heaslip’s try, which started on the edge of the 22, and featured some really nice hands, dummies and support lines. Also the build-up play to Stander’s try was a vintage Joe Schmidt move and was so close to resulting in a first phase try, which are very rare to see these days.
So all in all it was a good day at the office with lots of tries and positive play. But we all know harder opposition lies ahead, starting with Scotland on Saturday.