Hennessy's breakdown

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    Yo, dear readers, of which there may not be any, the following is Hennessy’s half pissed, getting more pissed as he writes, breakdown of the 6N to date, and going forward.

    Thoroughly enjoyed today’s fare btw, as a neutral. France/Scotland typical all over the place entertaining fare. Scotland typical line breaking thrills but can’t finish for fuck, France wonderful risk taking offloading rugby which looks great against compliant opposition, like today, fails miserably against better opposition, like most days.

    Wales/England a cracking game, what makes the 6N great. I had confidently predicted an English victory, based on England steamrolling all before them previous two games & Wales flattering to deceive in their two.

    With the wonderful benefit of hindsight. England ambushed Ireland first game. They correctly analysed that Ireland are generally slow starters 6N & went at us from the kickoff. Last year we dominated territory & possession against France all day but couldn’t put them away & had to rely on that last phase miracle play to beat them. The previous year we lost to Scotland first up. England were considerably helped by Joe Schmidt’s tactical error in playing Robbie Henshaw at fullback, England exploited his lack of experience to the full. Firstly, Henshaw had played very little rugby of any description before this game & was rusty anyway but had only ever played at fullback on an occasional, probably emergency, basis when he was at Connacht, he has been at Leinster for the last two seasons where he has never played at fullback. I don’t know of any centre who ever doubled up as a fullback. Brian O’Driscoll never played fullback, did Jason Horan, Tim Little, Jeremy Guscott, Conrad Smith ? I don’t think so. If Schmidt wanted to trial this the place to do it would have been an Autumn international or a 6N game against Italy, or at home against Scotland, not against England.

    England were also helped by the fact that Ireland’s two most important players, Murray & Sexton, were coming off layoffs & were not in good form, and still aren’t as it happens.

    Wales were very poor 1st half against France, & won basically because France gifted the game to them 2nd half. But they had Italy next, which benefited them because they got to rest most of their key players & those that had to play weren’t overtaxed. England ended up getting an easy ride against France but picked & played their 1st choice team in the expectation of a tougher challenge.

    Wales probably targeted the England game as their key game from the outset, they knew they would dispose of Italy handily & the french win was a bonus, they basically took advantage of some atrocious French selection errors & sloppiness on the day. England targetted the Ireland game, because they had to, they played their frontliners again 2nd game up & again 3rd time up today. Lots of English players didn’t perform to previous levels today.

    Predictions for the rest of the tournament ? England will secure bonus point wins against Scotland & Italy because Scotland are absolute shite away from home & Italy are shite anywhere. Wales have the momentum so will probably beat Scotland at Murrayfield, but not necessarily a gimme. Scotland always play above thenselves at Murrayfield & they actually created enough chances to win today but just couldn’t finish them off. Ireland will beat Italy tomorrow, if we don’t we’re truly fucked, with a bonus point & should beat France in Dublin, probably by strangulation. Which should all build up nicely to game of the tournament, Wales/Ireland, Cardiff, 16/03/19.

    I haven’t done the math, I’m having a beer gimme a break, but I think even if Ireland win our last three games, including against Wales, we probably need to score bonus points every game to be in with a shout for the championship, because we allowed England a winning BP against us while failing to score a losing BP & we didn’t get a winning BP against Scotland.

    Like anyone gives a fuck this year, the team that will get remembered in 2019 will be the World Cup winners, not whoever wins the 6N or the RC.


    Anyone but the Poms!


    Watching Ireland get out of jail today against Italy a number of things struck me. There are certain similarities with where Ireland are now & England were last year. England suffered last year because their best players weren’t available & they had to tweak their systems, including playing players out of position, to accommodate the replacements, who simply weren’t at the same level. Everybody talks about having 2/3 players for every position but realistically every team, including the All Blacks, have a first choice team & will suffer when that isn’t available to them. England are suddenly better this year because they have their best players back which has also allowed Jones to play people in their best positions.

    Ireland played a rusty centre at fullback against England, with a third choice at centre & suffered. This was compounded by our 1st choice 9 & 10, Murray & Sexton being in poor form. In fact, they are still in poor form & Schmidt is leaving them on the pitch for as long as possible each match in the hope that they will play themselves into form. Until very recently Murray & Sexton were the best 9/10 combination in the NH if not the world. If a Lions squad was being picked in the morning the 10’s would be Farrell & Biggar & the 9’s would be Youngs & Davies.

    If Murray & Sexton recover their form for the WC & we can play Henshaw & Ringrose together in the centre we will be formidable, if those elements don’t fall into place we will struggle. Schmidt is going to have to make a huge decision on Murray & Sexton, does he persist with them in the hope that they will come good in time or does he bite the bullet & give serious game time to possible replacements viz Cooney/Marmion/McGrath at 9 & Carbery at 10. None of those are at Murray & Sexton’s best level yet but if Murray & Sexton are no longer at that level either tough calls will have to be made.

    We also have a big problem at hooker. Best is past his best, Cronin was given the chance to step up to the plate today & blew it & Scannell didn’t do much better when he came on. Ireland rely hugely on good lineout possession & today we lost 5 of our own throws, 3 with Cronin on & 2 with Scannell. Everyone will target the Irish lineout going forward.

    To do well in the rest of the 6N & the WC we need our best centre combination playing together, nobody ever tried to split up Horan & Little or Darcy & O’Driscoll by sticking one of them out of position at fullback. We need a hooker who can do the basics properly & we need a 9 & 10 who can perform. Apart from that we’re grand 😁

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