SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Ireland make huge statement ahead of World Cup

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: English duo Andy Farrell and Mike Catt are putting Ireland on the fast-track to rugby’s pinnacle following ‘special’ triumph over New Zealand

  • Luke Pearce and his team of officials did very well to let the game flow
  • The selection of Jamison Gibson-Park ahead of Conor Murray was inspired
  • Andy Farrell’s Ireland is exciting veteran Johnny Sexton ahead of the World Cup 
  • Garry Ringrose highlighted why he was once touted as the next Brian O’Driscoll
  • James Lowe, Tadhg Furlong, Caelan Doris and Jack Conan all shone on Saturday 

This was a really special performance — and win — by Ireland over New Zealand. It showcased the modern game at its very best, the fitness and athleticism, and it was also very well officiated by the all-English team led by Luke Pearce.

It was a game that ticked every conceivable box.

Something very good is beginning to happen with Ireland, who have always been incredibly competitive in recent decades without quite going to the next level. 

Jamison Gibson-Park’s selection ahead of Conor Murray proved a masterstroke for Ireland

The improvement of Ireland under Andy Farrell is getting into the bones of Johnny Sexton

I can see why Johnny Sexton, at the age of 36, wants to keep going as long as possible!

To my eyes it is the pace at which they are now playing the game that accentuates their skills rather than compromises them. 

They are opting for the quicksilver service of Jamison Gibson-Park rather than the sturdier all-round qualities and kicking game of Conor Murray and on Saturday Ireland looked as happy playing at that pace as New Zealand, which is saying something.

Crucially, some big players and personalities are coming to the party.

A few years back, a younger Garry Ringrose was touted as the new Brian O’Driscoll, including by the great man himself, who thought he saw a lot of himself in the young Leinster centre.

Injuries and dips in form have compromised his career to date, but on Saturday Ringrose produced an inspiring, warrior-like performance straight out of the O’Driscoll mould. 

And yet he possibly wasn’t even the man of the match. That could have been James Lowe, who demonstrated all his best qualities and none of his occasional defensive lapses, or Tadhg Furlong, who produced a staggering performance up front.

Try-scorer James Lowe (pictured), Tadhg Furlong, Caelan Doris and Jack Conan were brilliant

Former England team-mates Farrell and Mike Catt are building something really special 

Or perhaps it was the fleetfooted No 8 Caelan Doris, who showed why many had him inked in as the Lions No 8 this year before injury curtailed his season. 

The muscular Jack Conan, one of the few who enhanced his reputation on the Lions trip, also had another highly impressive game

So you can only doff your cap to the team and their coaches, led by Andy Farrell and Mike Catt. This felt like a huge statement win and an important milestone en route to the World Cup.

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