Can anyone in Dublin feel a draft? That’s because Andy Farrell’s much-vaunted rush defence system regularly appears to leave the side door wide open.
As we go into this weekend of Six Nations rugby, there are three teams with a shot at the title – although for this to have any real chance of manifesting, Scotland are going to have to get over the jitters that occur every time they get south of Dalkeith.
This weekend they face an Ireland side with lots to like about it. Under Joe Schmidt, they have developed discipline, found ways to win in both open and tight games, and the multitude of new talent brought through has hit the ground running at international level.
But every side has an Achilles heel and Ireland’s is in its wide defence.
Excluding the 2017 mid-year tour against no one in particular, Andy Farrell’s defensive structure has conceded three tries in a game every second time out.
To reiterate, in half the games since Farrell joined, Ireland have conceded three tries. On most occasions they have been able to play their way out of it, Wales and Italy this year for example, but their last three losses have all been in games where they have conceded the big three.
Hardly the defensive colossus the mainstream media would have us believe, and with Ireland conceding 15 tries in their last five games against modest opposition, Gregor Townsend and his assistants will be busy on the whiteboards this week.
He will also be noting that in two of Ireland’s last three losses, in addition to conceding three tries, they have also failed to cross the chalk.
The following screen shots give a few examples of how sides that can shift the ball quickly get outside Ireland with relative ease.
This is the reason Ireland may struggle to make an impact when we all get together in Japan. This relentless press or rush defence is exhausting and I really struggle to see how a side is going to pull this off five times in two months against good sides without falling in a heap.
It’s great to see the Six Nations getting lots of southern hemisphere attention this year, and while an increasingly nervous England will be hoping for a better performance this week against France, the big show is in Dublin with the well-rounded Ireland side looking to keep out the now rampaging Scots.