Let’s Get Physical – Worrying Trend Emerges For Irish Rugby


Bullied, beaten up front, dominated – terms that are becoming all too familiar when describing an Irish Rugby performance on the back of a defeat.

Under Joe Schmidt, Ireland did the basics very well. A strong set-piece, a good platform up front, a powerful maul, winning the collisions that matter, getting over the gain-line and forcing teams into submission.

Add in a strong kicking game and some important jackals and it was a recipe for success. It brought wins over New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, a Grand Slam and a number one spot in the World Rugby Rankings.

Leinster then took that to almost another level and it resulted in complete PRO14 domination and a fourth European crown. But the game has moved on and evolved but sadly Ireland haven’t and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Physicality and that battle up front wins rugby games, no matter what way you want to dress it up.

Former Springboks prop BJ Botha couldn’t have put it better on this week’s episode of the Up & Under Podcast.

“Physicality, being dominant, winning the gain line. Being physical up front in the scrum allows you to be physical, it’s like a free ticket.” Botha said.

“Being physical at the breakdown, being physical in the maul. It’s the first and foremost taste of what the opposition might feel from you and that’s where you want to set your stall out. And not wait for that.

“As the saying goes with a lot of teams and coaches – get the forwards into the game early. You want to make a tackle early, you want to scrum early, you don’t want to be waiting 30 or 40 mins for the first scrum. You want to be carrying the ball early and feeling that.”

English teams, in particular, have starved Ireland of that physical dominance and used their kicking game against them. And it’s a worrying trend that needs to be addressed or Ireland will continue to be bullied. They no longer have that physical edge, and maybe it’s time to think differently.

Former Ireland, Leinster and Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip also made some very valid points on this week’s episode of the podcast too.

“It’s like anything – a rising tide raises all ships,” Heaslip said.

“Under Joe’s tenure-ship, we would have reframed what basic excellence is all about. But the everyone caught up.”

“And then what happens is – we’re not… Leinster aren’t the biggest side, Ireland aren’t the biggest side.

“And a worrying this is our big ball-carriers, our big players, the main ones are coming to the end of their tenure.

“It’s almost like it’s a warning sign for us as a nation in terms of how we want to play going forward. Because we’re not a big side and we’re gonna come up against England, who are massive, we’re gonna come up against South Africa, who are massive, France – massive.”

It’s clear to see something has to change with Irish Rugby.

Either that physicality needs to be brought back through tenacity and ferociousness to make up for the lack of “big players” or the game plan needs to completely change if they’re going to avoid another “beat down” so to speak akin to Saracens on Saturday and England in the Six Nations the last two years.

You can catch the full episode of this week’s show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you usually get your podcasts.

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