Ireland need to respond, that much is simple.
The record 57-15 defeat to England at Twickenham on Saturday has raised serious questions about Ireland’s prospects at the World Cup.
The players lacked physicality, they defended incredibly poorly, they offered little in attack and their setpiece crumbled under the weight of English pressure.
There are a myriad of problems which need to be solved but if there is a glimmer of hope to desperately cling on to, it’s the fact that Ireland’s opening game against Scotland is still over three weeks away.
Those problems are fixable and there will be a small level of comfort taken in the fact that for many of those who performed poorly on Saturday, it was their first game of the season.
In addition to this, there are a number of players who didn’t feature against England who can no doubt make a difference to Ireland’s fortunes.
They should get some game time on Saturday against Wales in Cardiff.
The Leinster second-row has yet to get any minutes under his belt this summer and the 23-year-old, who is widely considered as the best player in the country, was sorely missed against England.
Despite his young years, James Ryan brings considerable experience of performing at the highest level and his work-rate, where he often posts 20+ tackles and carries in matches, will bring some much-needed ballast to the Ireland pack.
Ryan is also an excellent operator at the lineout and considering this malfunctioned completely at Twickenham, the former St Michael’s pupil can’t come into the team quickly enough.
Another player who has yet to see game time this summer, Dave Kilcoyne’s aggression and dynamism in the loose would have been a much welcome trait to bring to proceedings against England.
The Munster loosehead relishes the physical aspects of the game and considering Ireland were so easily beaten up by their English counterparts, the 30-year-old’s absence was sorely missed.
With Cian Healy waiting on the results of a scan on his ankle injury, Kilcoyne should have a big opportunity and that will likely come against Wales this weekend.
Like a fine wine, Keith Earls has only improved with age. He had yet another excellent season in red for Munster but has yet to see any minutes in green in this preseason.
He is expected to make his first start of the summer this weekend and his experience and communication skills will surely make a difference to Ireland’s defending.
Jacob Stockdale struggled to defend the fringes against England at Twickenham, although it must be said that he was left in a very difficult position due to mistakes made by those inside him.
Earls will add a level of calm to the Irish backline and with his attacking exploits well known at this stage, his inclusion can’t come quick enough.
CJ Stander wasn’t alone in producing a disappointing performance against England. The whole Irish back-row were out-muscled by their opposite numbers.
However, Conan has long been knocking on the door to become Ireland’s starting number eight and considering his superb season in the blue of Leinster, it looks like that time will actually arrive in the coming weeks.
“I probably wasn’t fully aware of the level that was needed to make the most of that opportunity and I probably didn’t make the most of it." https://t.co/ZrcnEcOuiw
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) August 18, 2019
What separates Conan from Stander is his handling ability and footwork. The Wicklow native can run superior and more deceptive lines which is what is required when meeting a rush defence as Ireland experienced on Saturday.
An injury disrupted season for Robbie Henshaw saw him miss the majority of the Six Nations but his stock has risen higher due to the defensive performance of Bundee Aki at the weekend.
The Connacht centre, who wasn’t alone in making mistakes, made some poor misreads which put Ireland under pressure and allowed England to play the ball into space.
Any possibilities of Henshaw being utilised at fullback may be put to bed considering his importance to Ireland’s midfield.
The Leinster centre has considerable experience at the highest level and his inclusion should add a layer of calm to the Irish backline which was completely absent on Saturday.