Category: Archive

Bring on South Africa

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Ireland 53, Romania 35

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN — Ireland duly qualified for next year’s rugby World Cup finals with a 53-35 victory over Romania Saturday at Lansdowne Road, but the omens hardly look good, with reigning World champions South Africa due in Dublin in a few days time.

The Irish might have run up 50 points, scoring seven tries in the process, but most of their attacking play lacked conviction. To make matters worse, an understrength Romania were able to score five tries against a home defense that went walkabout.

In fact, with so little possession, it was the Romanians who gave Eric Elwood and company a lesson in creative back play. Ireland relied far more on the bludgeon than the rapier, but the sort of bludgeon that worked against a team of Romania’s dubious pedigree will have no effect on the South Africans.

This game, and the previous 70-0 annihilation of Georgia, were supposed to provide coach Warren Gatland with two trial runs before the major test against South Africa, yet all Gatland can be sure of is that forwards Paul Wallace and Eric Miller are now out of action due to injury.

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In fairness, the Irish still have a useful set of forwards, but there has been precious little evidence that any of the backline know what to do with the ball. The performance against Romania was characterized by bad handling and sloppy passing. Players like Elwood, Jonathan Bell and Kevin Maggs have not enhanced their reputations over the last two weeks.

Perversely, if Gatland can get his squad to focus on defense for Saturday’s visit of the South Africans, all might not be lost. Ireland appear to be a team that functions better without the ball.

As for the world champions, they are on course for some more history. With 16 consecutive test-match triumphs, they are closing in on New Zealand’s record of 17 victories in a row.

Having already put paid to Wales and Scotland on this tour, Ireland and England stand in the way. On current form, the first of those challenges is likely to be a formality.

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