Dual blogged on Irish News Review
With such an experimental selection of was always going to be a little hodge podge from Ireland against Georgia. The scoreboard reflects a comprehensive victory, and other results mean they now sit at 3rd in the world rankings, but this was by no means a demolition of Tier 2 opposition and that’s not a bad thing. Here’s why.
Georgia were always going to be physical, and arguably more so than Australia can muster. In order to have experience dotted throughout the squad, Joe Schmidt changing seven in the pack was crucial. Just look at the maul. For the entire first half it was going absolutely nowhere, I’ll admit myself to having been tearing my hair out over the persistent use of it. But once it started to come good, admittedly the introduction of Devin Toner helping it along, it all became clear. Practice. When you’re up against a pack like Georgia and you can be confident you won’t lose the game, let the forwards get in more experience under pressure than they ever could in training.
There was still a game to be won, of course there was. But not one try, bar maybe the first, came from anything in the Schmidt playbook. Experience may have been lacking a little in the back line, but individually these players can get the job done and that they did, around the forwards fronting up over the course of the game to thwart the Georgians. If last week’s XV had taken the pitch you’d think Georgia would have received a record hammering but we would have learned nothing. Now, over just two games, we have 39 players having taken the field in green for at least a few minutes. I don’t have the stats at hand, but I’d hazard a guess that Kidney’s entire reign only barely crept above that figure.
Joe Schmidt is a man of immediacy, the next game is all that matters. But you don’t get to be the ultimate tactical coach he is without an eye on the bigger picture, which is September 2015. Ireland moved to 3rd in the world rankings, they’re on course for a full complement of November wins for the first time since 06. But they haven’t won anything. Brian O’Driscoll spoke on Newstalk the week just gone about how he wouldn’t swap a Six Nations medal for the All Blacks scalp – it’s all about silverware. Aside from defending the Six Nations, Schmidt and his squad may only get one shot at the title, pending his renewal at the helm, and you can be damn sure he wants it. Here’s hoping that this game against Georgia will show itself to be the stepping stone it looks like right now. Roll on the Aussies.
Image courtesy of breakingnews.ie