What we learned from Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up win over Wales
The road to the 2015 Rugby World Cup began in earnest for Six Nations foes Wales and Ireland, with the latter running out 35-21 winners at the Millennium Stadium in their first warm-up match.
What did we learn from this encounter? Coral rugby writers suggest five things.
Gatland experiment requires rethink
Wales coach Warren Gatland went with an experimental XV, handing out four international debuts for this first preparatory fixture. This detracted from previous cohesion and defensive organisation. Happily, he has other fixtures to get the blend of old faces and new hands right.
Ireland underline value of experience
In contrast to their hosts, who handed Six Nations winners Ireland their only loss in the spring, Joe Schmidt largely went with seasoned internationals, and his reluctance to tamper with a successful formula paid off. The Irish exploited all of Wales’ weaknesses. Keith Earls, the man of the match, was better with the ball than the entire opposition combined on a greasy surface in Cardiff.
Amos, Day and Walker stake claims
Although Wales lost, Gatland can take some comfort in the performances of Hallam Amos, Dominic Day at lock (who assisted a try) and winger Eli Walker, despite the odd costly mistake.
Justin Tipuric and Alex Cuthbert’s late crossings also hint that the Welsh will be forcing their World Cup opponents’ hands right up until the final whistle. Ross Moriarty, meanwhile, will have his work cut out for him to make the final Welsh roster after being sin binned.
Paddy Jackson must avoid kicking profligacy
Ulster fly half Jackson is admittedly not first-choice kicker for Ireland, but he only converted twice from five tries and notched two penalties. Against elite opposition at the World Cup, Schmidt’s side can ill afford to give away points like that if they are to live up to their outright odds of 7/1.
Trimble and O’Donnell injuries are cost of Irish win
Winger Andrew Trimble limping off with a calf problem, plus flanker Tommy O’Donnell going off on a stretcher late on because of a dislocated hip – which has ruled him out of the World Cup – were a hefty price for Ireland to pay for victory in Cardiff. Nonetheless, Schmidt’s team can take far more positives from the win, with their set piece strength.