Tag Archives: Johnny Sexton

Scout’s Report: England

Tuilagi v Earls

Tuilagi vs. Earls will be a key battle. (c) Nigel Snell.

England come into the final weekend of the 2012 Six Nations with 3 wins from 4, and are still in with a (massively outside) chance of winning the Championship. Credit must go to interim coach Stuart Lancaster for refocusing a side who endured a nightmare in New Zealand at RWC2011.

Lancaster’s team has been built upon a base of solid, physical defence. That much is clear from the fact that only Wales (3) have conceded less than England (4) in terms of tries. The English, with 487, have made more tackles than any other team in this year’s tournament. These stats are impressive, but don’t paint a completely accurate picture.

Scotland managed 9 clean line-breaks against England in their opening game, and only lost due to their inexcusable failure to finish those chances. Next up, the uninventive Italian side managed to cut through the English defence 3 times. Missed Italian place-kicks proved crucial in the end, as England squeezed home.

An improved performance at the Millenium Stadium followed, as England narrowly lost out to Scott Williams’ late try. Whether or not it had anything to do with the media hype over the size of their backline, Wales attempted to take England on in a bosh-fest. That completely played into the hands of this England side, who well capable of aggressive defence in that type of game.

English Defence

The English defence has been impressive, but Wales and France played the wrong type of game. (c) Nigel Snell.

Wales do have enormous physical attributes in their team, but they would have been better served by using their pace to get around England, rather than trying to run through them. Last weekend, France were frankly appalling in attack. Their lack of patience was hard to understand as Lionel Beauxis repeatedly kicked possession away. However, the introduction of Morgan Parra after 50 minutes made a huge difference and shows Ireland the way to attack England.

Parra brought tempo to the French game. He was quick to every ruck, firing the ball away as soon as possible. Even with England restored to fifteen men, after Sharples’ sin-binning, Parra’s rapid delivery helped France to make inroads, with the pace of Wesley Fofana benefiting in particular as he made several line-breaks.

Eoin Reddan’s role tomorrow will be crucial. His most important quality is said to be his quick service, and we will need to play off it. England are suited to a slowed-down, physical game. When the tempo increases and the faster players (Keith Earls) get quick ball, they look less comfortable. Ireland have to play with as high a tempo as possible. That should suit Johnny Sexton, who always looks better when he has less time to make decisions.

Attack is where England have really struggled. Omitting the weak Italian team, England have the least carries, line-breaks, defenders beaten, meters gained and offloads of any team in the Six Nations so far. The one table that England are top of is ‘kicking from hand’ which they have done 113 times in 4 games. Against France, many of Farrell’s kicks were loose and aimless. Rob Kearney will be willing the English to kick to him in this manner.


Reddan's quick delivery will be vital tomorrow. (c) Nigel Snell.

Ireland’s defence has improved in every game of this campaign, and it needs to be stepped up again tomorrow. Stephen Ferris must back up his antagonistic words by leading an aggressive Irish defence. England play off outhalf Owen Farrell a lot, with forwards running lines inside him, or Tuilagi and Barritt taking switches or skip passes from the 20-year-old. Ireland’s line speed can shut this uninventive play down, and turn defence into attack.

Farrell has had an impressive debut tournament, and does look to have decent mental strength. However, The Touchline feels that Farrell can be ‘got at’. Not through targeting him in defence (his tackling is excellent), but through getting in his face, abusing him, looking to get him involved in scraps. If Donncha O’Callaghan serves any particular purpose to this Irish team, then surely this is it. Chris Ashton is another who has looked close to losing the plot on occasion this season, and Ireland must look to provoke the winger.

Ben Morgan has emerged as a key man for England, and he put in a superb effort against France, making Foden’s try. He’s a destructive ball-carrier and Ireland have to cut him down early. The No.8 has displayed good offloading skills so we may have to double up in taking him out of the game. Similarly, Tuilagi is  real handful in the centre. Earls’ defence has been surprisingly effective so far this season, and will have to be at those levels again tomorrow.

There’s no outstanding reason for Ireland to fear this English side. As Alan Quinlan’s superb column revealed this week, Irish players have become used to beating England. By playing at a high tempo, supporting Kearney’s counter-attacks and coming up aggressively off the defensive line, Ireland should maintain their impressive recent record over the English.


Photos courtesy:  Nigel Snell.

Same Again for Ireland

The Ireland squad shows no changes from the Italy game. (c) Ken Bohane.

Declan Kidney has selected the exact same match day 22  as that chosen for last weekend’s 42-10 win over Italy. Despite some impressive cameos off the bench, particularly from Leinster’s Eoin Reddan, the Irish management team have kept faith with the likes of Conor Murray and Donncha O’Callaghan ahead of Sunday’s clash with France in Paris, with no changes to the starting 15.

Kidney’s team selection for this rescheduled fixture will almost certainly be greeted with accusations of conservatism and over-loyalty by many fans. Do you think Kidney should have made changes? If so, in what positions? Do you think Reddan and Donnacha Ryan deserved to be starting? Would you have made more than just two changes? Comment below with your opinion on Kidney’s decisions.

Ireland team to face France:

1. Cian Healy (Leinster)

2. Rory Best (Ulster)

3. Mike Ross (Leinster)

4. Donnacha O’Callaghan (Munster)

5. Paul O’Connell (Munster, capt.)

6. Stephen Ferris (Ulster)

7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster)

8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)

9. Conor Murray (Munster)

10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)

11. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)

12. Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster)

13. Keith Earls (Munster)

14. Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)


16. Sean Cronin (Leinster), 17. Tom Court (Ulster), 18. Donnacha Ryan (Munster), 19. Peter O’Mahony (Munster), 20. Eoin Reddan (Leinster),21. Ronan O’Gara (Munster), 22. Fergus McFadden (Leinster).


Photo courtesy: Ken Bohane.

Heineken Cup Round 5 Round-Up

Munster secured a quarter-final by beating Castres on Saturday. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.


Ulster 41-7 Leicester

Friday 13th January @ Ravenhill

Ulster were irrepressible as they ripped the Tigers to shreds in front of an overjoyed crowd at Ravenhill. Tries from Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble (2) and Paul Marshall as well as 21 points from the boot of Ruan Pienaar did the damage for Brian McLaughlin’s team. Ulster completely dominated the Tigers, who had hopes of a push for the quarter-finals coming into this game. Ulster remain top of Pool 4 but now have the unenviable task of a trip to Clermont on Saturday.

Clermont showed good form themselves over the weekend as they humiliated Aironi. However, if Ulster can repeat Friday night’s performance then they have a real chance of winning in France. If they do lose, they can still top the group if – 1) they deny Clermont a try-scoring bonus point, 2) get a losing bonus point themselves and 3) either score more tries than Clermont in the game or lose by less than five points. Lots of permutations for what should be another thrilling Heineken Cup game.

Here’s Pool 4 heading into the final round of games next weekend:

Here’s the four Ulster tries from Friday night:


Munster 26-10 Castres

Saturday 14th January @ Thomond Park

Munster became the first side to secure a quarter-final berth in this season’s Heineken Cup as they overcame Castres at a packed Thomond Park on Saturday. Despite a promising opening ten minutes, which saw Johne Murphy cross for a well-worked try, Munster got dragged into a real battle with Castres’ second-string. Wian du Preez’s try with twelve minutes to go confirmed the win. Ronan O’Gara was as reliable as ever from the tee, converting both tries and adding four penalties.

Speaking after the game, Paul O’Connell admitted that Munster were”frustrated” with their performance. For the second week in a row, plenty of chances were created but there was a lack of accuracy in finishing them. Looking at the positives, Munster are in a much better position than this time last year and go to Northampton knowing that a win would guarantee a home quarter-final. The Saints will be out for revenge in a big way.

Pool 1 looks like this after Round 5:


Toulouse 24-3 Connacht

Saturday 14th January @ Stade Ernst Wallon

Connacht came away from Toulouse with a certain amount of pride after showing up well. Despite four tries for the home side, Connacht were much improved on last week’s loss to Aironi and were unlucky not to get a couple of tries themselves.  The travelling Connacht fans were rewarded for their loyalty and Eric Elwood will certainly find positives ahead of the final pool match against Harlequins on Friday night at the Sportsground.

Niall O’Connor opened the scoring after 14 minutes but Toulouse gradually got on top. The prolific wing Timoci Matanavou scored two tries with Maxime Medard and Louis Picamoles also crossing the whitewash. Lionel Beauxis was on target with two conversions. Connacht will look to finish off their maiden Heineken Cup campaign on a high against Harlequins. Conor O’Shea’s side can still qualify so a first win for Connacht would be a huge shock.

Here’s Pool 6 after the weekend’s action:

Here’s the highlights from the Toulouse game:


Glasgow 16-23 Leinster

Sunday 15th January @ Firhill

Joe Schmidt’s Leinster weren’t at their best in Glasgow but still managed a win that sees them secure a quarter-final with a game to spare. As predicted, Glasgow worked hard as they fought for their Heineken Cup lives. They will be dissapointed with the soft try they conceded to Rob Kearney. If truth be told though, the Warriors never had enough quality to come out on top.

Johnny Sexton kicked one penalty for Leinster but when he picked up a calf strain, Fergus McFadden took over the kicking duties. The centre slotted two conversions and two penalties to top off a fantastic all-round performance. Isaac Boss was the other Leinster try-scorer. Leinster host Montpellier at the RDS on Saturday and a win would be enough to ensure a crucial home quarter-final. That win should be well within Leinster’s capabilities.

Here’s Pool 3 after the fifth round of matches:

Here’s the highlights from the Warriors vs. Leinster game:


Photo courtesy:  Ivan O’Riordan.