England's lineout collapses, Ireland injury problem a blessing in disguise and praise the English despite defeat

Five things we learned: Henderson selection a Schmidt masterstroke and Sexton proves he's hard as they come

England won the Six Nations but missed out on the Grand Slam
England won the Six Nations but missed out on the Grand Slam

England lineout tactics leaves puzzling questions

Eddie Jones made it clear afterwards; something went wrong with the England lineout. Whether it was a tactic that failed, or a ploy to try and react to the Irish driving maul, England chose not to compete in the air with the Ireland jumpers. Meanwhile, the likes of Peter O’Mahony and Iain Henderson had a field day in disrupting the English throw.

The buck appears to fall with the lineout leader, Maro Itoje. The 22-year-old will need to take this experience as a learning curve and ensure the set-piece doesn’t falter so badly again.

It looked like resolving itself in the second half as England got their driving maul going. But a bizarre decision, in the 78th minute, not to compete for an Irish lineout when trailing 13-9 and needing the ball to win, leaves a lot of questions about what was going on with the English decision-making.

Sexton shows he’s hard as nails

The fly-half was hit hard by James Haskell, then borderline late by Itoje, and then again by the Saracens forward in a bone-shuddering tackle that left the fly-half needing treatment. And yet he continued to give it his all.

Sexton’s moment to shine came with the boot, his beautifully struck 45m penalty on the angle a crushing blow to the England fightback that lifted the stadium and the men in green. But it was his desire to continue, despite having a more than able replacement lying in wait in Paddy Jackson, to see the game out.

Any questions over his inclusion in the British and Irish Lions XV this summer have been answered, such has been his decisive influence in every game he’s played in.

Heaslip injury a stroke of luck

The loss of such an important figure in Jamie Heaslip would normally destroy a sides spirit before kick-off, but it meant that Joe Schmidt had to re-jig his back-row to accommodate the returning Peter O’Mahony, with David Leavy named on the replacements.

It proved to be a match-winning change, as man-of-the-match O’Mahony sigle-handedly picked apart the English lineout and had a destructive impact on the oppositions defence. Schmidt flatly rejected any accusation of an underhand tactical switch, and you believed him, but it proved to be a very important one nonetheless.

Decision to bring Henderson in a tactical win for Schmidt

Another big contribution from the Ireland head coach was the decision to drop Devin Toner, all 6ft 10in of him, to bring in Iain Henderson. The more combative Ulster forward was able to perform in the lineout and get himself about the park, and what shone through most was his ability to break the gainline every time he carried.

Iain Henderson's return to the team was a selection masterstroke (Getty)

That was none so prominent as when he carried the ball to within inches of the try line, before stretching out his arm to dot the ball down for the only try of the match. It proved to be a decisive carry given the four-point margin.

England deserve praise despite grand Slam choke

Yes, it was another missed Grand Slam, and yes, it was another case of England choking when the pressure was on. But, this also was the end of the best run of form in English rugby history, and for that Eddie Jones and his side have to be commended, not slated.

England will recover from this - but will they learn?

This is a remarkable side that can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, which made it all the more surprising that they weren’t able to get over the line when Jones sent on his “finishers”. England can’t be written off as the potential New Zealand-challengers that they were before this match after just one defeat, but it’s now a question of seeing if they learn from this experience.

Their next trip to Dublin comes in two years’ time, just a few months before Jones takes his side to Japan for the World Cup. Only then will we know the answer.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in