If Ireland can get bonus points in games like that, then everyone should be worried

Liam Grimley

Liam Grimley

Liam has worked at The Irish News since June 2023, bringing experience from his previous role at Media Isle of Man. His areas of expertise are sports reporting on American Football, GAA, Rugby and Soccer. He holds a BA (Hons) degree in Sports Journalism from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Ciaran Frawley (centre) celebrates with Ireland team-mates after scoring against Wales
Ciaran Frawley (centre) celebrates with Ireland team-mates after scoring against Wales (Niall Carson/PA)

When I attended Ireland’s clash with Wales, I think it’s safe to say it was a matter of how Ireland won, not if.

There was chatter beforehand about not being too complacent and scoffing at the ‘banana skin’ comments being flung around during the week.

The Irish side came out all guns blazing, fielding a strong side to show Wales the respect they deserved.

However, the game that unfolded, despite the scoreline, was not the usual free-flowing from start to finish type of game we are accustomed to seeing under Andy Farrell.

The game was marred and muddied by penalty after penalty, with both sides sharing their fair share of the blame.

Wales simply weren’t able to cope with the Irish power and pace in the first half and were drawn into giving up penalties that even warranted Daffyd Jenkins being told to calm his team-mates down at around the half-hour mark.

Ireland were just too quick in the pass and too powerful in the scrum for Wales to be able to stick it.

However, Ireland’s discipline dropped off in the second half, with Wales even picking up a penalty try in the 48th minute of the game, which confused everyone even Farrell, who after the game was still perplexed by the decision.

However, despite that decision, Ireland pulled themselves together and continued to push themselves further away from Wales, going relentlessly for another try, although discipline in the attack was still an issue as were blown for penalty after penalty.

It even cost them points in the end when Robbie Henshaw was judged to have passed the ball forward leading to Bundee Aki’s try being ruled out.

Farrell spoke about the passive attack that Ireland showed at times, and frankly, he hit the nail on the head, Wales decided to step off them and let Ireland come to the red wall and this caused Ireland’s fast-paced attack and short passing plays to be less effective, as Wales weren’t defending from the front to force the errors.

Ireland will be happy with their bonus-point win, especially considering some of their game was below their own high standards, but they will face stiffer opposition in these final two fixtures in England and Scotland.

Both these two sides played each other in the evening kick-off on the same day as Ireland and Wales, and watching that, given the Ireland I saw that day, if discipline was fixed, both teams should be scared of seeing green.

England were impressive with their line speed, anticipation and timing of passes but will find it difficult to run through a gap when it’s being plugged by a ready-and-waiting Tadhg Furlong or Peter O’Mahony.

Speed will be their main weapon and Ireland can make it hard for a team to get momentum going and make teams have to think on their feet mid-game to get around them.

As for Scotland, Duhan Van der Merwe is an obvious threat for them, scoring a hat-trick and being a general freak of nature, possessing the height of a lock but the speed of a winger and the ability to score from just about anywhere on the field, so Ireland’s main task will be to neutralize that threat.

However, a potential Scottish advantage was spotted this weekend in Dublin. Penalties.

If Ireland don’t keep penalties to a minimum, Scotland have Finn Russell who will take more opportunities to kick for points as they will want to keep as close to Ireland as they can.

Ireland restricted Wales to a penalty try on Saturday afternoon in Dublin
Ireland restricted Wales to a penalty try on Saturday afternoon in Dublin Ireland restricted Wales to a penalty try on Saturday afternoon in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Also, with penalties, could come yellows and yellows means stretched sides, which Scotland lick their lips at.

Scotland loves to stretch teams out and force them into mistakes on the outside and send in the blonde bombshell that is Van der Merwe or another pacy threat to gain metres and points.

If Ireland can sure up their lines so that the speed of England and the quick attacks they use are neutralised, and they keep their discipline in check, then may the rugby gods help the Tartan Army and the old enemy because Ireland are capable of doing what has never been done before, being grand slammers twice in a row.

If that happens, then there will be other questions to be answered, but for now, anyways, let’s just settle for back-to-back slams agreed?