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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
England now engages in an aggressive chase and Slade pounces on a mistake 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.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes