British & Irish Lions 2021

3 things we learned from Ireland's Six Nations win over Wales

2020-02-09 10:05
Conor Murray (Gallo Images)

Dublin - Ireland kept alive their hopes of a second Six Nations Grand Slam in three years while ending Wales' dream of a repeat Slam in a deserved 24-14 victory on Saturday.

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The Irish will head to Twickenham in a fortnight hoping to seal the Triple Crown whilst Wales face a tough home clash with a revived France.

Here AFP Sports picks out three things that stood out in the Ireland v Wales game:

Murray answers doubters in style

Conor Murray's back might have been against the wall with growing calls for John Cooney to replace him as number one scrumhalf but he bounced off it in style. The 30-year-old's pass had added speed to it, though, coach Andy Farrell regretted the scrum sometimes did not give him quick enough ball.

However, the Munster star sparked the backline and his trademark box-kicking made much more of an impact than it had in the 19-12 opening win over Scotland.

Ireland's talismanic flyhalf Johnny Sexton made no bones about the contribution he felt his long-time half-back partner -- they started together for a national record extending 58th time -- had made to the match.

"He was outstanding," said Sexton. "His box kicking which suddenly everyone gets sick of and starts giving out about it but it won us the game with a few of the box kicks that he did, they created pressure on them.

"They were outstanding in such tough conditions. I'm absolutely delighted for him."

An in-form Murray and Sexton is the last thing England will want to face.

Twinkle-toed Larmour sparks back three

Jordan Larmour looks like he could well live up to the great expectations that surrounded him when he was blooded at Test level by previous Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

The 22-year-old produced a performance at fullback that surely shuts down any hope of a return for the veteran Rob Kearney.

It was not just his try but an assured display in defence -- seen as a chink in his armour in that he lacks the presence in the air that Kearney did in his pomp -- with some eye-catching clearance kicks.

However, even more encouraging for coach Andy Farrell was that the other two in the back three, wings Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale, also shone.

Stockdale set the tone early on gaining the Irish the early foothold and Conway was brilliant in defence and grabbed a deserved try.

Sexton praised the back three for not always being lured into running with the ball and taking the right decisions sometimes to kick instead.

Farrell for his part complimented Conway. "He (Conway) was outstanding on both sides of the ball," said Farrell. "We want our wings to go 100 percent and he defined that.

"I thought Jacob did the same on the other wing as well. I actually think we created some space for them to play into some holes in that first half, which was really pleasing."

Edwards' defensive mastery missing

Wales coach Wayne Pivac has rightly won plaudits for the flowing rugby he instilled in Welsh region Scarlets and his style promises a more attractive style for the national team than perhaps Warren Gatland allowed.

However, the 57-year-old New Zealander may also want to restore the defensive strategy which the now-departed Shaun Edwards implemented. The latter's immediate impact on France was seen to dramatic effect in last week's victory over England.

Ireland breathed easier without Edwards's blitz defence being unleashed and it allowed their backs to make ground constantly -- in contrast to their 2019 meeting in Cardiff where the Irish had to wait till the final move to score a try.

Wales's defensive cause has not been helped by the injury to Jonathan Davies but Pivac may want to fall back on the old strategy when the French come to Cardiff on February 22.

Read more on:    ireland  |  wales  |  six nations  |  rugby

 

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