Ireland’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland in Murrayfield was difficult to watch at times for Irish fans, not because of the brilliance of the home side, but rather due to the persistent simple errors that punctuated a deflating day in Edinburgh.
Poor lineouts, slack defending and repeated knock-ons allowed a confident and eager Scotland to bully Ireland around the park for much of the afternoon. Lacking the intensity of their hosts, Ireland looked uncharacteristically inept at times and in the end, were deserving of the defeat.
Watching the game on Saturday were Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara as they worked for the BBC and RTE respectively and at half time and again following the game, both legends were scathing in the assessment of Ireland’s performance.
Speaking at half time during BBC’s coverage, O’Connell was typically forthright with his views.
“Ireland have a plan that they haven’t really stuck to. One of the big things that has been successful for Ireland in the last few years has been the set piece, the lineout has been excellent and they’ve always been disciplined. They generally win that penalty count. They don’t give away silly penalties.
You look at the lineout that was turned over for the first [Scotland try], you look at Simon Zebo going to the floor and not rolling and rotating and not doing his best to get the ball out.
The other thing is the five-metre drives. Ireland have been very good at defending five metre drives and they’ve been very good at converting.
Today has been the opposite in many respects in the lineout, discipline and five-metre drives.”
O’Gara, watching for RTE studios, gave a frank opinion of how things went for Joe Schmidt’s side.
Ronan O'Gara: Ireland have been bullied. There is a breakdown in communication between players that haven't played together at this level." pic.twitter.com/5i4J8PREYw
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) February 4, 2017
Fans will be hoping that Schmidt and co can dust themselves off and get back to basics ahead of the trip to Rome next weekend where the Italians will be waiting.
With the potential to cause an upset always within the Azzurri, they will surely have been watching how Scotland successfully executed a game plan that effectively made Ireland look average at best.
While they smell an opportunity, you have to assume that Ireland will be ready to make some kind of a statement of intent for the remainder of the campaign.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
On this week’s edition of The Oval Office, we discuss all things Six Nations with George Hook, Paul Williams from Rugby World magazine and former Ireland u-20 international Adam McBurney.