With Townsend and Schmidt at the helm, the Scotland v Ireland tactics were always going to be on another level. We have already broken down the moments that cost Scotland the game, and here we will go through Joe Schmidt’s power plays step by step. These power play moves are becoming so complex, many fans will miss the small details that turn a training pitch drill into a powerful 6 Nations try. Let’s start with Ireland’s second try.

Scotland v Ireland Tactics | The double inside-ball

Here Ireland conspire to separate the two defenders in the red circles. They will do so by switching direction.

Ireland aim to pull these two defenders apart
Ireland aim to pull these two defenders apart

We can see that after the first part of the move they are already halfway to achieving their goal. At this stage, the move is looking like a complicated 1-2 cut. But there are two extra elements of this yet to be revealed.

Watch as Stockdale moves into position and takes a second inside pass.

Stockdale takes a second inside ball
Stockdale takes a second inside-ball

Ireland now have the space they wanted, and Stockdale goes through to score. But some questions remain. Where were the Scottish defenders around the ruck? Even with all of the trickery, how did Ireland manage to find a gap in usually the most congested part of the field?

Scotland v Ireland Tactics | How Ireland scored by ‘lengthening’ a ruck

Let’s rewind the tape to the start of the move. Tadhg Furlong (far left side of frame) has helped clear the ruck for Ireland and now takes up a position on Scotland’s side of the ruck. He is effectively making the ruck longer, and forcing Scottish defenders to run around him to make tackles.

Furlong extends the ruck
Furlong extends the ruck

He ends up standing around on the Scotland side of the ruck, acting like he didn’t know how he got there in Oscar-winning style. But he is secretly playing a blocking role.

Now watch Conor Murray, the Irish no. 9. He’s shuffling across to the left to block any Scottish players in the ruck from making tackles.

Murray does a tactical shuffle beside the ruck
Murray does a tactical shuffle beside the ruck

While both Furlong and Murray could put forward a case for their innocence in all of this, Sean O’Brien (Irish no.7) can not. Watch here as he sneakily pulls on Berghan’s jersey (bottom of shot). Ireland have set up too many roadblocks for the Scottish defenders to deal with, and Stockdale accelerates through the subsequent gap.

O'Brien's sneaky jersey pull
O’Brien’s sneaky jersey pull

I’ll leave it to you to judge the legality of all of this, but all of these moving parts are impressive nonetheless. Even Gregor Townsend himself gave props to Joe Schmidt for this move in the post-match press conference.

If you would like to know other ways in which Ireland could attack in the 6 Nations, check out the fantastic article below.

Ireland’s New Attacking Plays: What can we Expect this Six Nations?

So are Ireland hiding more of these moves? Can they perform them at will? We will now look at one that didn’t quite come off to find out.

Scotland v Ireland Tactics | The try that wasn’t

This next move had everything going for it, but it was shut down by a Scottish player not reacting as intended. O’Brien takes the ball and gives a pass to Aki.

O'Brien gives the ball to Aki
O’Brien gives the ball to Aki

It is evident that Ireland are trying once again to split two defenders so Murray can run straight through the gap. However, it doesn’t work on this occasion.

McInally takes no notice of the dummy runners
McInally takes no notice of the dummy runners

McInally completely ignores the dummy runners that he was supposed to be focusing on, and makes a good tackle. But on another day this crazy move might just have worked. We know Joe Schmidt likes his dummy runners to move exactly as if they were going to get the ball, with full commitment. If they can bring more of that attitude, these training-park chess moves will be near impossible to stop.

The 1014 Rugby reviewed Joe Schmidt’s power plays in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.

Do you think Joe Schmidt is hiding more moves like this for the World Cup? We would love to hear your thoughts.


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