Ireland’s Grand Slam victory over England on St Patrick’s Day capped off a dominant Six Nations Campaign for Joe Schmidt’s side, which provided an attacking style of play and the emergence of certain flair players that shines a light on our upcoming World Cup ambitions in Japan 2019.
Ireland finished the campaign with a dominant 11 point difference over second-placed Wales and accumulated a try-scoring tally of 20 tries, as opposed to Wales’s 13 tries throughout the competition. After a tough victory over a resurgent France side on the opening matchday of the competition – thanks to a moment of brilliance from Sexton – Ireland begin to show a style of play that saw them produce potent attacking displays and play a brand of rugby we have not seen from them in awhile.
In a recent video on World Rugby, Irish players Rob Kearney and Andrew Trimble discussed what makes Ireland’s attack so great.
Kearney, who recently signed a new deal with Leinster rugby and Irish Rugby until November 19, explains the key aspects that make a good ‘back three’ player in the modern game, noticeably the use of the ‘Pendulum Effect’ which Ireland successfully demonstrated throughout the Six Nations campaign.
“I think the game has changed quite a bit over maybe the last ten years. You need to be quick, you need to have a very good aerial game, you need to have good anticipation, score tries. If you have all of those there’s probably a good chance you’ll make a good back three player.”
“A fundamental part of the full back over the last couple of years is that they’re getting involved and I suppose in a more distribution role. The ball goes up in the air and more often than not you want your wingers pretty close to you that if you do become under pressure that you can shift it onto them. You are there together you work the pendulum if the winger goes up the full back generally tries to go in and cover what he’s left behind. You expect work rate from your far side blind winger to fill up the full back space. So that pendulum effect is very much an appropriate word for it.
“Anticipation is a big part of the fullbacks role in trying to get the ball on the full when the opposition kick them before they bounce is a big job and to do that more often than not you have to position yourself behind the ball regardless of where it’s going.”
Furthermore, Kearney applauds the structure in place throughout Ireland from grass roots rugby, through to academy and subsequently the professional game. The introduction of so many up and coming youngsters into the first team has bolstered this point of view – with Jacob Stockdale, Gary Ringrose and Jordan Larmour noticeable prospects with the added flair that makes for a frightening potent attacking game.
“We’re going through a very good stage at the moment in Ireland that we have a lot of real fantastic players coming through academy structures, grass roots rugby providing some real good talent and making it through the ranks to professional rugby.”
Andrew Trimble provides his view on the important skills needed to be a successful back three – in particular with the concept of communication between the fullback and wingers.
“There’s a big emphasis nowadays on the back three and I suppose both wings and full-back have to have the ability to kick, to field balls, to chase high balls and receive high balls. Effectively all three in the back three have to have full back traits.”
“Quite often you might not touch the ball for twenty minutes, thirty minutes but you know you’ve had a good game if that back fields been tidy.”
“For me, that communication between the winger and full backs is quite crucial. Obviously, some of the guys who I’ve played with recently, Jacob Stockdale, Jared Payne, Rob Kearney with Ireland.. Some of these guys have a little bit of flair and if you play with a guy plenty of times you start to know what they do. You start to anticipate what they’re doing. For me, it’s just doing what you’re told and learning to read there body language and get on something that they might create.”
The emergence of Jacob Stockdale, who was awarded the NatWest Player of the Championship for the Six Nations tournament, provided an injection of flair and skill that saw the Ulster winger introduce himself on the International stage. Stockade, who was uncapped a year ago, provided a scoring outlet for the Grand Slam winning side with a staggering seven tries throughout the tournament.
Trimble notes the progression the Ulsterman has made in a short space of time which saw him climb the ranks and earn a spot in the Irish team.
“One of the best wingers around at the minute is Jacob Stockdale. He’s playing out of his skin for Ulster and Ireland. He’s stepped up. PRO 14 level he’s was dominating and stepped up to Europe. He was dominating and stepped up to Ireland in November and he was tearing it up. He’s copped with everything that’s been thrown at him at the minute and he’s one of the best in the business.”
Dean Byrne, Pundit Arena