IRELAND’S PLAYERS CERTAINLY enjoyed victory over the second best team in the world last weekend, but for the tight forwards it was a bittersweet feeling.
Essentially, South Africa won the scrum battle in Dublin. As in any sector of play, the Irish pack had their positive moments, but overall Greg Feek and his charges were left unhappy with their efforts.
Jack McGrath was on the receiving end of several penalty decisions from referee Romain Poite, although Ireland captain Paul O’Connell asked the Frenchman to watch a perceived early drive by the Springboks at least twice.
Feek, Ireland’s scrum coach, had an interesting perspective on proceedings, acknowledging that his side’s preparation had left them somewhat slow to react to actual events on the pitch.
“I put a lot of emphasis on being disciplined and not giving away cheap penalties, keeping the scrum up, not pushing before the ball comes in.
“Maybe we took the focus off exactly what was coming at us a little bit. Those things can be corrected, we want to correct them and no better test than to go against the Georgians.
“I put a lot of preparation into discipline and it’s a big part of what we did last year,” continued Feek when promoted to explain further. “Maybe we focused on that a little bit too much.
Feek is keen for Ireland’s scrum to respond against Georgia. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“So we were focusing on not trying to give those penalties away, and not focusing on what was actually coming at us. You learn and take things out of it. I’ve got the players to fix that and the systems to fix that.
“It’s not a major shift, it’s just about maybe giving a little more clarity about what the refs want as well and where it’s heading. It does change sometimes, particularly in November, whether the referee is from the Southern or Northern Hemisphere.”
The Georgians, who have included scrummaging specialists like Davit Kubriashvili [Stade Français], Levan Chilachava [Toulon], Mikheil Nariashvili [Montpellier] and Zurab Zhvania [Stade Français] in their squad this month, will firmly test Ireland’s competence.
With that in mind, Feek hints that this may not be the game in which to give the somewhat unproven Rodney Ah You or Stephen Archer an Ireland start at tighthead prop.
“We want to be standing our ground as forward, either going forword or standing our ground.”
On the loosehead side, Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne will feel he has proven himself to the extent that a start has been earned. McGrath may be rested before re-entering the fray againt the Wallabies in two weekends’ time.
Mike Ross put in a 73-minute shift at tighthead against the Boks following a month without playing, and looks very likely to start again on Sunday. Feek was pleased to see his first-choice number three back in action, and feels there is more to come.
Tadhg Furlong has been training with Ireland in recent weeks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“I think the way the game went, it was a bit stop-starty, there was a bit of kicking, that actually suited Rossy in the end. Obviously at scrum time, we weren’t happy a lot of the time, but I know with his history that he will only get better.
“With his experience, we can rely on him to get out there and do the job.”
Tadhg Furlong has been involved at Carton House again this week, building valuable experience within those famous high standards of Joe Schmidt’s camp. The 21-year-old Wexford tighthead remains a way off a first Ireland cap, but Feek agrees that it’s positive for the Leinster man to be involved.
“Hopefully in the future, we have more guys knocking on the door that are ready to play Test rugby. You can’t put a time limit on how many games that is, but once they come into the camp that’s a really positive thing.”
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