Choke conversation out of breath with Ireland refusing to take focus off England
MORE THAN 10 days have passed since Ireland have been in action. Too long.
Perhaps the wait would have been bearable if it wasn’t England looming on the horizon. The nation could have revelled in a rare win over France rather than instantly turning to fretting about last season’s runners-up.
Alone he stands: Paul O’Connell arrives for training in Maynooth today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Rugby’s news cycle just can’t sustain two solid weeks of build-up, even for a potential Championship decider. Wales’ defence coach Shaun Edwards understands that, and so he picked his moment in the Six Nations discussion vacuum to cast aspersions on Ireland’s defensive centrepiece.
Concussion? Yep, he dragged it into the discussion for a little extra weight when insisting that the choke tackle is a dangerous way to play rugby as it encourages high tackling.
On the face of it, it seems an easy argument to dismiss (as Eddie O’Sullivan did) but Ireland’s forwards coach Simon Easterby was extremely eager to keep schtum on the whole argument.
“He’s entitled to his opinion, but I don’t want to comment on that,” he said, optimistic that that would be that. Yet the questions kept coming.
But Simon, do you believe Ireland play dangerous rugby?
Thank goodness for that.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
It’s that kind of week. With England coming to town, the Ireland camp are being careful not to provide the challengers with any extra ammunition. Joe Schmidt has always demanded that talking be done on the field, unless he feels the need to underline a point himself.
That requirement is being fulfilled to the letter. As, you expect, are the demands of training where the squad are expending their energy in an effort to put right the only wrong of Ireland’s 9-win-out-of-10 2014.
With the dust long since settled on injury news and Jordi Murphy an unbackable favourite to fill Jamie Heaslip’s berth, even a clash with an Auld Enemy we haven’t beaten in four years and looks likely to be a title decider won’t distract from players’ focus.
“I think that’s just looking a bit too far ahead,” Simon Zebo says of the theory that game three in the Six Nations will be pivotal.
“I think we just need to focus on the game itself, putting in that big performance, and I’m sure come the end of the Championship it will come down to narrow little points, but if you look too far beyond it, you’ll get caught up and slip up.”
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“Every game in the Championship is a massive game and if we talked that way I think we’d slip up, because we’d have been looking to England since the Italy game.
“And if you don’t take every game as it comes then you’re going to get left behind.
“So for us it’s obviously a massive, massive game, it’s the next big step in the journey and where we want to go as a collective, and we know how well we’re going to have to perform to overcome the English.”
Having been out of the side, Cian Healy’s thirst to play is a little less disguised, though he is never too far away from offering a sensible maxim warning about the dangers of thinking historically and to instead refocus on the task ahead.
Four days to go. Ireland v England, choke tackles and all, can’t come soon enough.
‘I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think I could last the pace’ — Cian Healy ‘Don’t hate the players, hate the game’