England’s tactical approach to beat Ireland was not a subtle one. Starting with their defence, the overwhelming pressure England applied was visible across almost every phase. To find out exactly how England dismantled Ireland we need to start from the kickoff, where England crossed the line in 92 seconds. Let’s jump into all the Ireland v England tactics.

Ireland v England Tactics | How England dismantled Ireland in 92 seconds

Scoring so quickly against Ireland was a dream start for Eddie Jones’ men, and provided the momentum they needed for the rest of the game. Let’s break down how they did it.

England attack Ireland's weak point
England attack Ireland’s weak point

Above we can see plenty of movement that keeps the Irish defence standing still. Farrell makes a run to test the Irish defence near the ruck. That will be important in the eventual try.

England holds onto the ball and goes through several phases until they end up in this position.

England now use Ireland's confusion to their advantage
England now use Ireland’s confusion to their advantage

We now have a scenario where there are 3 Irish forwards (red circles) are bunched in close to the ruck. Farrell has already been trying to exploit this space, so two Irish defenders try to mark him here. This causes confusion out wide, and Earls (blue arrow) doesn’t stay on his man.

England now exploits the overlap with a beautiful pass from Farrell. The player in the red circle (Murray) is now essentially a wasted defender. They get around the last man and finish well.

England have now dismantled the Irish defense
England have now dismantled the Irish defence

In a previous article, we broke down how England scored against the All Blacks in an almost as impressive 112 seconds. You can check that out below.

How Eddie Jones Almost Won a Hypothetical World Cup Final

After this try, Ireland was already feeling the heat and they began making uncharacteristic plays in attack. Let’s look at how England’s defence added yet more fuel to the fire.

Ireland v England Tactics | England’s overwhelming defensive pressure

Usually, Ireland would use pods of 3 to carry the ball to the line. In this game, however, they were pressured into using lone players. In this example, England gets up quickly to trap Stander behind the gain line. Curry would do a fantastic job of leading the line like this throughout the game.

England get off the line fast
England get off the line fast

Once Stander is trapped and isolated behind the gain line, Ireland has to set up their next attack. The ball comes quite slow by international standards, and once again the England players move fast to trap Ireland behind the gain line.

England continue to trap Ireland behind the gain line
England continue to trap Ireland behind the gain line

This is a small snapshot of how England would defend throughout the game, and they would integrate their kicking game into their physical defence as well.

Ireland v England Tactics | How England used kicking to advance their defence

With their physical defensive line doing so well, England would use it as a tool to push Ireland around the park. Without the experienced Rob Kearney pulling the strings at fullback, Ireland lacked communication and positioning amongst the back 3. Farrell would exploit this continuously by kicking to space and finding grass. Here England gets a turnover, and Farrell intentionally finds grass behind the Irish back 3.

Farrell continuously bounced the ball down into Ireland's half
Farrell continuously bounced the ball down into Ireland’s half

The bouncing ball gives England precious time to move up and set up their aggressive defence, trapping Ireland in their own half.

England would also use the bouncing ball to push Ireland into the corners, and into bad positions. Below Farrell finds a gap between the two backfield defenders to accomplish this.

England find grass again to push Ireland into the corner
England find grass again to push Ireland into the corner

Likewise, here Youngs notices that Ireland’s fullback (Henshaw) has taken the ball into contact and is at the bottom of a ruck. He whips a kick into that same corner once more.

England dismantle Ireland again by finding space in the corner
England dismantle Ireland again by finding space in the corner

England’s defence was winning, and their kicking game was finding holes. Now they had to translate the overwhelming pressure into their attack, and they would have victory in their sights.

Putting it all together

We have already discussed how England like to use Rugby League-style back door passes to shred defensive lines. Here they set up one of those moves. Slade gets the ball out the back.

England set up one of their trademark back door passes
England set up one of their trademark back door passes

He then kicks a bouncing ball into space behind the line. Because Ireland uses their halfback in the defensive line, there is no sweeping defender (usually in the space where the red circle is) to help tidy it up.

Ireland are exposed by the lack of a sweeping defender
Ireland are exposed by the lack of a sweeping defender

England now engages in an aggressive chase and Slade pounces on a mistake to score.

England use great kicking and high pressure to score
England use great kicking and high pressure to score

This try was built by defensive pressure, a brilliant kicking game and convincing dummy runners. It’s a great encapsulation of Eddie Jones’ strategy for this game in action.

The 1014 Rugby reviewed how England dismantled Ireland in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.

Are England now on the hunt for a grand slam? Can their physicality work in every game? Let us know your thoughts below.


  1. Brilliant analysis! Really love stuff like this. I was too caught up in the match to realise what was fully going on and articles like this really help fill in the knowledge gap afterwards!!

    • Thanks a lot for the comment and shout out Rob M. So pleased you enjoyed the analysis. It is very very easy to get caught up in the match and miss a few things. Cheers

  2. Great article Henry and 1014. Again! Really enjoy all the analysis you guys do.

    To respond to your question, I think the challenge is to match the emotional intensity England showed in this game. 2018 was a tough year overall, with some painful evolution for the team. They also had that Grand Slam defeat to Ireland at Twickenham last year to avenge. So emotions would have been high with a lot to prove. I’m not sure it’s possible to summon the same intensity every game, and the physicality is connected to that.
    England thrive when their pack can bully the opposing pack. What I appreciated in this game was the England pack playing up to that line without crossing it (much). But a lot therefore depends on the big units staying fit. We need some injury luck between now and September.

  3. Great analysis.. I think that England at one point kicked on three consecutive occassions having won the ball back or had it kicked back to them. Pressure to the max.

    On attack another key factor, was their recycling speed at the breakdown. Such was the accuracy of players arriving to clean out, Ireland were given less time to re position and get in the D line before Youngs had the ball out wide again. There’s only one team in the world who do this consistently, should England reproduce this form and make it habit, they will redoubtably be a huge force to be reckoned with come September. Wilson was a real work horse in this area, and what can be seen is that the extra mobility of Englands back row is really paying off. Think Billy V, Wilson,Curry vs Hughes, Robshaw and Haskell.

  4. Henry in that first try I agree there were three Irishmen close to the breakdown but isn’t that due to them making sure the tackler is getting Billy Vunipolo! The play was then made by the offload to Young’s which then did not allow their to be great linespeed to occur and then Own Farrell make a great pass! It does not happen if they tackle Billy Vunipolo and die not get the offload


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