Tommy Bowe finds some form, Simon Zebo starts to fit the 15 role, Devin Toner to keep the support role and Richardt Strauss does a passable impression of Rory Best
By Whiff of Cordite
While the World Cup ‘went off’ around them, Ireland quietly went about their business against Romania – bonus point secured, no major injury concerns and some well-worked training ground moves. And all done with the minimum of fuss. It had the finger prints of Joe Schmidt all over it – whack and bag ’em early. With the dirt trackers largely starring, most of the key takeaways were personnel ones.
Tommy Bowe lives on
Bowe is unlikely to displace Dave Kearney for the Italy game but it was important that a trim-looking Bowe put his Twickenham nightmare to bed, and show that he deserves to be in RWC situ while his Ulster compatriot Andrew Trimble has been omitted. This was a heartening display with two tries and some neat aerial work – and Schmidt views the latter as more relevant than the former. There is life in the old dog yet.
Richardt Strauss has a bit of Rory Best about him
The green scrum cap caused us to momentarily forget it was Richardt Strauss on the pitch, and not Rory Best. Not only that though, the performance was pretty Best-like too. Strauss was a menace in the tight exchanges, especially at the breakdown and a dab hand in loose play too, with a couple of nice ball transfers and a big part in Simon Zebo‘s almost-try. Strauss has had a long spell in the international semi-wilderness due to injury and the continued emergence of Sean Cronin has denied him meaningful opportunities in green – it was reassuring to see him so effective.
Zebo at full-back takes a positive turn
Simon Zebo has played more at No 15 than on the wing in the last few weeks, and the performance graph shows plenty of volatility. Promising against Wales, poor against England but once again here, there was bags of promise. He was unlucky not to score, he appeared aware of his body position but just couldn’t get his foot of the floor before catching the ball. Elsewhere, his pass to put Earls away was to-die-for and he showed selflessness in putting Kearney away for a score. A solid day’s at the office. I’ll end this with a question. Ireland’s test number 23?
Keith Earls lights it up, again
Against Canada he produced the game’s finest moment with his floating, accurate inside pass to Rob Kearney but he had looked a little scratchy up to that point. At Wembley he was to the manor born. The arguments that he cannot pass and is blinkered must surely be put to bed now. Predatory finishes for two tries and brought some positivity to the play every time he touched the ball. The back three is competitive, especially if Robbie Henshaw is available to play 13, but Earls is likely to stay in the 11 shirt.
Devin Toner may remain frustrated
Toner had a largely decent game, topping the tackle count, but he looks set to remain a peripheral figure from the Ireland XV. He’s did nothing wrong but is likely to find himself relegated to outside the match day squad next week. His problem is that Iain Henderson is undroppable and his USP’s – midfield distribution and defensive lineout – are just as capably carried out by the flanker Peter O’Mahony. A further compounding problem is that Donncha Ryan is a more obvious impact player off the bench. At least O’Connell will retire soon, eh? Tough old world…