mistakes | 

Ireland got it wrong against Fiji – and changes will be made for Australia showdown

The eligible-again Bundee Aki will come back into the squad next weekend.

Kieran Treadwell of Ireland is stopped by Ratu Leone Rotuisolia© SPORTSFILE

Caelan Doris of Ireland is tackled by Tuisue at the Aviva© SPORTSFILE

Ireland skipper Tadhg Furlong directs© SPORTSFILE

Joe Carbery is nailed by Albert Tuisue of Fiji, who was sent off© SPORTSFILE

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell© Getty Images

Mick GalweySunday World

We won – and that’s about the only positive thing about Ireland’s Aviva Stadium victory over Fiji yesterday.

It was an awful scrappy match in which Ireland forgot to do the basics, to establish control up front before you try to do the flashy stuff among the backs.

When you are wondering why the match was a mess, that’s one answer. Ireland got that all wrong.

And referee Mathieu Raynal got a lot wrong too.

The contest could have finished with about 11 Fijians on the pitch as he ignored repeated visiting penalties as they tried to haul down rolling mauls.

Caelan Doris of Ireland is tackled by Tuisue at the Aviva© SPORTSFILE

There were at least two valid cases for penalty tries, and two valid cases for more cards than the one red and two yellows the referee brandished.

Perhaps he sensed the supporters were getting little enough bang for their buck, in the way of entertainment, than to be watching 15 players play 11 at times, but that’s what could have happened here.


We love watching Fiji play at World Cups. But if they are going to make an impact in France next year, the South Sea Islanders have to sort out their discipline.

They played 30 minutes of the 80 against Scotland a week ago a man down, and we got more of the same in Dublin.

Fiji have to learn not to tackle the way Albert Tuisue did against Joey Carbery’s head.

I felt so sorry for Joey as he went off. The lad cannot catch a break.

He was doing really well in the match, controlling things, and now you have to doubt if he’ll be allowed play next Saturday against the Wallabies.

But one man’s misfortune is another’s chance and Jack Crowley came on and did really well at out-half.

The third out-half role in Ireland’s World Cup squad is still wide open, and Crowley entered that conversation yesterday.

There were other players who caught my eye, like Nick Timoney, a deserved Man of the Match, and Max Deegan, who showed some power and pace when he came on.


Deegan has lots to offer but he has Caelan Doris and Jack Conan ahead of him for province and country.

And remember Conan was last year’s starting No 8 for the Lions in South Africa – it is some set of riches we have in the back-row.

Of course, Timoney is trying to get a start ahead of Josh van der Flier, the player I regard as the best open-side flanker in world rugby right now.

But they are the challenges and all these players eventually helped Ireland see off Fiji as we brought a bit of nous to the proceedings with some tasty running lines.

What will Andy Farrell do for next weekend?

I suspect the eligible-again Bundee Aki will come back into the squad.

He’ll have to with doubts about the fitness of Robbie Henshaw and Jimmy O’Brien after yesterday.

Johnny Sexton will come back, of course, for Saturday night to lead the show as will warriors like van der Flier and Peter O’Mahony.

They will all be needed against an Aussie side that will be hurting after being beaten by Italy yesterday.

Ireland skipper Tadhg Furlong directs© SPORTSFILE

Australia will be copping some stick off their fans and media after that loss.

What better way to get back in their good books, than by taking down the World’s No 1 team – that’s the target on Ireland’s back right now.

Looking further forward, I suspect that if you put Ireland coach Andy Farrell upagainst the wall, he’d admit to you that, with everyone fit, he knows 27 of the 33 who will be in the World Cup squad next year.

The remaining six places will surely go to a utility back like Jimmy O’Brien or Keith Earls – that’s if his dreadful run of injuries ever ends.


There will be that third out-half behind Sexton and Carbery and a third scrum-half behind Jamison Gibson-Park and Conor Murray.

A spare prop will travel and two players who can be of service in the second row and back row.

Ryan Baird, another player who needs a clear run without injury, Deegan and maybe Joe McCarthy could get the nod there.

Gavin Coombes could too, but he seems to have drifted down the pecking order after a poor effort against the Maoris side two weeks ago.

The Munster man began his fightback with a good showing in the province’s win over South Africa last Thursday.

But Coombes has ground to make up – he can do it if he continues to impress for Munster.

In the short-term it is on to the challenge of taking down these wounded Wallabies.

After that we can plan for the Six Nations, with both France and England coming to Dublin.

The big challenges just keep on coming for Irish rugby, but this team and this squad keep meeting them.

Even if it can’t always be pretty – just as this win over Fiji wasn’t!

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell© Getty Images

‘We weren’t clinical, by any stretch’

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell cut a frustrated figure, as he tried to put his finger on why his side made such hard work of their win over Fiji. “Any Test match win should be celebrated, especially when you’ve got three lads making their debut and Tadhg (Furlong) captaining the side for the first time,” Farrell said. “So, delighted that they are able to celebrate in the proper way with their families etc. It’s such a momentous occasion. Analyse “But for us, as far as the performance is concerned, (it was) pretty underwhelming. I suppose when you look back and you analyse a performance like that, you’ll get plenty of learnings. “But for Fiji, being down to 13 men, obviously with the red card and a couple of yellow cards, and the penalty count being 14-10 in our favour, we should have been a lot more clinical than we were. “And I think that’s the moral of the story. We got into their 22 time and time again, and yes because of illegalities or the stop/start nature, we lost our flow, but we weren’t clinical enough by any stretch of the imagination.”

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