Ireland v England: How Schmidt’s men rated in World Cup warm-up
And so, after riding a crest of a wave that has seen them surge up the rankings in world rugby, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side have crashed back to earth after back-to-back defeats to Wales and now England.
Some might say it’ll do no harm to bring down expectations, and some will say our World Cup bid looks doomed – but there are a couple of weeks to go before we get the ball rolling in earnest, so there’s plenty of time to iron out any blips.
However, below-par performances from some of Ireland’s marquee players – notably Tommy Bowe and the raw but exciting Simon Zebo – will be a worry for Schmidt.
England looked hungry and primed to go at Twickenham yesterday in the 21-13 defeat of Ireland, and Schmidt’s men looked a bit ponderous, perhaps being mindful of injuries.
Here’s how we rated them:
Worryingly unsure defensively. Rob Kearney has no reason to be looking over his shoulder ahead of World Cup. 5
Skinned more than once by opposite number Johnny May in first quarter, and continued to miss a string of tackles. 5
Made just 14 metres from six carries and continues to offer little creativity. Much more required. 6
Worked tirelessly with and without the ball but will rue his forward pass to Zebo when a game-changing breakaway try looked on. 6
One of the shinning lights in a largely dismal display. Always hungry for ball and consistently looked to test the hosts. 7
Starved of ball for the majority of the game and rarely given a platform to dictate play. Hobbled off towards the end. 6
Replaced after 16 minutes by Eoin Reddan, who wasn’t afforded an enough clean ball by his pack. 5
A strong showing in the scum, though his failure to generate serious momentum further highlights the importance of Cian Healy. 6
Will be pleased that Ireland secured all but one of their 12 lineouts and put in an immense clear-out for O’Connell’s try. 7
Another good effort against his old foe Joe Marler in the scrum. Remains a lynchpin in the Irish set-up. 6
Typically efficient at the lineout, though ineffectual in the loose. Iain Henderson the better option at this time. 5
Dotted down for a vital try but his inability to assert himself in the trenches set the tone for a disappointing day. 6
Was virtually anonymous by his own high standards and, from start to finish, paled in comparison to counterpart Tom Wood. 5
Not his most authoritative display at the breakdown and spilled ball at crucial times. No one will know this more than him. 6
Fell off some tackles early on, before improving in the second half. Part of a pack that was far too timid at times. 6