Rugby Union: Gatland's Irish show no mercy

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Ireland 70 Georgia 0

Tries: Dempsey 2, Bell,

Costello, Duignan, Johns, Maggs, O'Shea, Scally, P Wallace

Cons: Elwood 10

Half-time: 28-0 Attendance: 8,000

MARCHING through Georgia? Well, something very like it, as Ireland swept past Georgia in this World Cup qualifier before a half-full house at Lansdowne Road yesterday.

Nit-pickers will say, with a degree of justification, that the opposition was rubbish. But Ireland's coach, Warren Gatland, will be satisfied that Ireland did what national teams from his native New Zealand have always done - that is to show no mercy for your opponents, even if they were drawn from the local convent school.

This was a record score in international rugby for Ireland, surpassing the 60-0 defeat of Romania at Dublin in 1986. And the supporters seemed well pleased with the result, given the paucity of Irish international victories, either at home or away, over the past decade.

Of course, it would be unwise to read too much into this win. But a start has to be made somewhere, and this was the best of all possible preparation for Ireland's upcoming matches against Romania in next Saturday's other World Cup qualifier, and then against the Springboks in November.

Gatland used yesterday's occasion to give six of the seven replacements a run, thereby awarding first caps to the scrum-half Ciaran Scally and utility back Girvan Dempsey, who joined the only other debutant in the team, centre Pat Duignan. Happily, all three marked the occasion with their first international tries. The only replacement to lose out was David Humphreys, but then Eric Elwood, who was out injured until recently, needed the match practice.

It wasn't all sweetness and light for the Irish. In the first half, they performed a trifle spasmodically, as good attacking platforms were spoiled by dropped passes, by losing the ball going forward, and the occasional wrong option. But really, it is hard to argue with the fact that Ireland ran in 10 tries in the space of 80 minutes. Several of them were scored beside the posts, which enabled Elwood to speed matters up by drop-kicking the last four conversions.

Ireland led by 29-0 at halftime, courtesy of tries by Paul Wallace, Paddy Johns, Kevin Maggs and Conor O'Shea, all converted by Elwood. Georgia were simply not in the same league as the Irish and have a long way to go before becoming a force in international rugby.

The second half was pretty well all one-way traffic. The six tries were scored by Wallace again, Duignan, Jonathan Bell, Dempsey, Scally and finally Dempsey again. Elwood, it need hardly be said, converted them all, and Ireland would not have been especially flattered if they had added a few more.

The result apart, there were many positives. Duignan, born in Canada of Irish parents and reared in Australia from the age of six, looked a real find, a hard-running intelligent centre who might very well solve the problems which have beset Ireland's midfield pretty well since the days of Brendan Mullin and Michael Kiernan. Justin Bishop also looked the part, having played well on the tour of South Africa last summer. And there is nothing too wrong with the pack, boasting a solid tight five, a good back row, and with replacements in the wings.

Of course, far sterner tests lie ahead. But Gatland is not a man to delude himself, though he will well know that this win should do immense good for his squad, for players who have been hungry for victory.

Hopefully for Ireland's greater aspirations, this convincing victory can be repeated in more demanding circumstances and against stiffer opposition than Georgia.

Ireland: C O'Shea (London Irish); J Bishop (London Irish),P Duignan (Galwegians), J Bell (Dungannon), K Maggs (Bath); E Elwood (Galwegians), C McGuinness (St Mary's College); P Clohessy (Young Munster), R Nesdale (Newcastle), P Wallace (Saracens), P Johns (Saracens, capt), M O'Kelly (London Irish), E Miller (Terenure College), A Ward (Ballynahinch), V Costello (St Mary's College). Replacements: A Clarke (Dungannon) for Nesdale, 28; G Dempsey (Terenure College) for O'Shea, 53; C Scally (UCD) for McGuinness, 53; D O'Cuinneagain (Sale) for Costello, 60; J Davidson (Castres) for O'Kelly, 60; J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon) for Clohessy, 62.

Georgia: V Abachidze; G Bugianachvili (both Gumari), E Dzagnidze (Datvebi), V Katsadze (Mauguio), A Kavtarachvili (Padova); B Tefnadze (Kochebi), C Djanlidze (Gumari) capt.; I Tchikava (Kochebi), L Javelidze (Gumari), G Chvelidze (Ska), I Zedgenidze (Mauguio), V Nadiradze (La Teste), A Kobazidze (Korebi), G Labadze (Penza), K Kobakhidze (Kochebi). Replacements: P Jimcheladze for Zedgenidze, 40; M Urdjukachvile for Katsadze, 40; Z Mtchedlichvili for Dzagnidze, 40; Katsadze for Labadze, 40.

Referee: R Davies (Wales).

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