Now, remember, Ireland also have their kicking game. Which is arguably the most honed and accurate in the World. For this, you need Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton.

But while both players are clearly the choices to implement Ireland’s kicking game they have their own X-factor traits. Conor Murray has a great step, crisp pass and the ability to dummy and run, hence his world-renowned performance at Soldier Field. Sexton’s ability as a 10 needs no justification. The guy is brilliant.

These are players you can fall back on in battle. Who can get you over the line when one way isn’t working. There are others that can not only play in the system, but have that X-factor to enhance it and, to go above and beyond.

Bundee Aki

Bundee Aki has a passing game that expands Ireland’s repertoire, and has that bulk that makes him perfect for that hard running looper decoy role. Plus, he can slot in with the backline, and pass down it very effectively. A good player, and one Ireland will treasure, either from the bench or the start.

James Ryan

I haven’t seen much of this guy, so I went back and looked at Ireland U20’s. I know this is early, but I’ll make the comparison. He reminds me of Itoje. He’s not the same type of player. It’s just his presence, the players on the field just draw strength from him. He was a talisman of that team, and even though he’s raw, and still a novice he has foundations to be a great. This guy is strong in the tackle, technically good, all heart and never takes a backwards site. A great find.

Garry Ringrose

This guy. I love him. I wish he was English. He’s just a more potent version of Jonathan Joseph. He has a great step and he breaks the line far more than Joseph does. He will have to keep on his feet, as defences have figured Joseph out, and he’s a very similar player to Joseph. Light, fast, defensively solid and a very good broken field runner with a great outside break. But I feel he has an advantage over Joseph in that Joseph operates right next to Farrell. Ringrose operates next to Aki and has a slightly more graceful step. So much so I think he could play 15. You only have to look at the difference between Farrell and Aki and think who would draw more defenders to put you in space. Farrell has the better pass no question. But Aki has a reputation as a hard heavy runner, defences will focus on him in analysis. By extension of the centre partnership, Ringrose will profit from that.


As has been shown in this series of articles, these patterns are vulnerable to Rush D. When the Irish don’t have a wide forward in the 1 position, due to their breakdown ethos, they aren’t keen to move the ball wide which is why the Splitter patterns and moves that separate players are their go to. This means that on the occasions they do, a specialist jackal out on the wings could be invaluable. However, against Rush D and constricted defences, the Splitters can be negated, as the defence keep moving up past the blocker, and occupy the space of the intended runner.

Ireland still have their kicking game which is what they have reverted to when their patterns were stifled. Particularly against NZ in Chicago.

The ever-growing focus of the offload is also a development of their ball in hand game and combined with the Splitter and the support systems within their 3 pods. Could be something that adds that little “Je ne sais qous” to their offence. It will never replace the system, and to put the fundamental attacking drive principle on something as risky as the offload is something Ireland, nor any smart coach will ever do. But it shows their direction as a team and the fact that they know where they’re going.

They are a smart team with smart Tactical Decision Makers (TDMs) who know to adapt, and Schmidt nor Ireland will stop adapting to gain the edge in the coming 6 Nations.

For the rest of this series see the following links; Part 1: Tenets, Part 2: 3-3-1 Looper, Part 3: Decoy & Splitter, Part 4: Twos and Part 5: Success factors.


Author: Conor Wilson

Recently retired from the Military, Skydiving and rare Steak Enthusiast and Player of the beautiful game of Rugby.

Joe Schmidt, Will Greenwood and Rod MacQueen are my heroes, and my proudest moment was putting Jason Robinson in for a try at a promotional Rugby day. It was truly beautiful.


  1. A very in-depth article, it sounds like Jamie Joseph introduced the rush defense system for Japan in November to build up for their match-up with Ireland at the World Cup. I have written an article about it called “Eddie Jones vs Jamie Joseph” if you’re interested. It’ll be great to see your perspectives on it.

    Looking forward to your Scotland articles to see if Japan is doing the right thing to counter their tactics.

    Keep it up!


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