Ireland started their World Cup campaign with an all-round victory over Scotland on Sunday. The Irish were dominant in their 27-3 victory, and looked like a team that has worked hard on the issues that were worrying them leading up to the World Cup.
One of the biggest concerns for Ireland was their shaky setpieces, particularly their lineouts. In their warm-up games against England and Wales, Ireland were unable to secure their lineouts at crucial moments of the games, which helped England to their 57-15 destruction of Ireland in Twickenham. This has not been the case for Ireland in Japan.
In their opening game against Scotland, Ireland enjoyed a one hundred percent record at both lineout and scrum time, winning all 12 of their own lineouts and all 10 of their scrums. They also managed to disrupt the Scottish lineout and steal one of their throws. This was the biggest issue that plagued Joe Schmidt’s side before the showcase, so he will be happy to see his side performing well in that aspect.
Another problem that reared its head in Ireland’s warm-up matches was their rucking ability; particularly their ability to win their own rucks. Ireland won 92 out of their 96 rucks against Scotland, most of which allowed them to gain forward momentum and further put the Scottish defense under pressure. However, the most telling breakdown statistic is that of the turnovers won, which saw Ireland turn the ball over eight times in their own half. In a match which had a 50/50 possession and territory distribution, the Irish ability to turn Scotland over on attack within their own half was the main reason Scotland were unable to cross the whitewash.
However, Schmidt will not be entirely happy with the every aspect of Ireland’s game, as their discipline did let them down throughout the match. Conceding seven penalties against the likes of South Africa, New Zealand, England or Wales could spell disaster in those matches for the Irish. Tadgh Beirne’s yellow card for a cynical play will also not please Schmidt, despite the fact that Scotland were unable to capitalise on the extra man.
After this performance, Ireland look well enough to be able to lay the ghosts of the past to rest, and finally see what playing in a semi final is like. If the Ireland from today were to face the South Africa from yesterday, it would be likely that the current World No. 1 ranked side would triumph. There is still a lot of rugby to be played, however Ireland have started their World Cup campaign in the best way possible.