Rugby Union: Ireland are in need of pattern to knit

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The Independent Online
OSTENSIBLY England are the yardstick by which Ireland and Scotland can be measured, although results in the Championship this year have so far defied form, logic and what had been perceived as the natural order.

In any case, yardstick is an exaggeration. What separated Scotland from England and England from Ireland could be measured by three barleycorns, which happens to represent an inch. Either way, England have done both countries a favour.

Scotland, even though they were defeated by Jon Callard's cruelly timed penalty at Murrayfield,

rediscovered they had forwards capable of taking the game to the opposition, while Ireland's one-point victory at Twickenham (after Callard hit the woodwork with two penalties) provided further evidence that they are capable of lining the bookmakers' pockets with the green stuff.

They put one over on England in rousing fashion in Dublin last March, but what Ireland have yet to prove, apart from the fact that the sight of the white jersey brings out the best in them, is whether they can develop a pattern for

success.

As Gerry Murphy, the Ireland coach, said after the victory over the English here 12 months ago: 'We have to forget it because it was a completely emotive one-off match when we were highly motivated and they were highly undermotivated.'

It does not take much to get the Celts going against England, but Ireland have more of a problem when they meet the kilted nation. Ireland have not beaten Scotland for six years, which must be as

bemusing to a Scotsman as it is to an Irishman.

If Ireland are to become a genuine force, rather than a team that slips the odd shillelagh into the spokes of the Five Nations' Championship, then matches like today's, and especially at home, have to be won.

In between those outstanding achievements against England, Ireland reverted to type against France and Wales. It has taken them a long time to realise how dangerous the left-wing Simon Geoghegan is with the ball in his hands.

Against France, Ireland conceded four tries, scored nil, and

relied solely on Eric Elwood's boot. It is a fine boot, right enough - he has kicked 58 points in four matches this season - but Geoghegan's well-worked try at Twickenham proved that there is life outside Elwood.

Gavin Hastings, Scotland's main provider (448 points from 48 international appearances), has been studying videos, dating from 1986, with the coach, Douglas Morgan, in an effort to find out where he has been going wrong this season. Against England, Hastings missed five kicks out of seven and the Scotland and the Lions captain was distraught.

'Goalkicking is of such crucial importance and you can't expect to win international matches with the strike rate that I sometimes have,' Hastings said. 'The time I have spent looking at old videos will I'm sure help.'

Doug Wyllie is hoping a more modern influence will improve Scotland's threequarter play. The 30-year-old Wyllie, making his first appearance at Lansdowne Road in a 10-year career, has shared with Scotland's coaches the ideas of the young Australian

Peter Jorgensen.

Jorgensen played alongside Wyllie at Stewart's Melville before recently returning to his own club, Randwick. 'His ideas on moves and training techniques were way ahead of what we'd been used to,' Wyllie said. 'We've incorporated a couple of things which could be useful to the Scotland team.'

Today's match marks the 100th anniversary of internationals played between Ireland and Scotland at Lansdowne Road, and we need a time machine to capture the hero of the game in 1894. Ireland won 5-0, the only try coming from H G Wells.

(Photograph omitted)

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