Rugby

Tomás O'Leary On What "Overrated" England Need To Learn From Ireland

Tomás O'Leary On What "Overrated" England Need To Learn From Ireland

For the first time in the history of the Aptly Named/Reputable Sports Site Balls.ie, we have reason to celebrate an Irish Grand Slam, what with the last one coming in an era of such relatively low technological advancement that Facebook had yet to start collating the data that could be used to influence elections around the world.

Thus, on the final edition of The Six Nations Takeaway, we were joined by a man of the '09 Grand Slam-winning vintage, Tomás O'Leary. While the erstwhile Munster scrum-half started the famous game in Cardiff nine years ago, he was in the stands last Saturday.

As a supporter, your heart wasn't in your mouth for the entire 80 minutes because Ireland seemed to be very comfortable. It's almost totally dissimilar to us in 2009 where we craped by every game. This team has become a ruthless machine under Joe Schmidt...It was a great atmosphere. Irish fans were a bit nervous because you always expect England at home to be a stern test, but it didn't prove to be that way.

It didn't prove to be that way partly owing to Ireland's ruthless efficiency, but also due to the fact that England were, in O'Leary's words, "abject". Elaborating on English deficiencies, O'Leary said that they were "overrated" going into this tournament.

I think they've been extremely overrated. They had eighteen wins a row last year which is an achievement, but if you look at how they played in those games, it was one-dimensional. If they didn't physically dominate a team, they weren't going to win. They've spoken about winning a World Cup, but they won't physically dominate every team they come up against. They need to be more like Ireland in the way they analyse opposition and specifically attacking teams where they are weak.

England don't seem to target teams, or identify weaknesses in the opposition. They seem to have a basic gameplan - physical dominance and direct. That's not going to take them to winning a World Cup. With Ireland, you see Tadhg Furlong's popped pass to Bundee Aki; those little nuances: Schmidt always has a few of them in every game.

This Irish team has taken it to the next level in terms of analysis. The Kiwis have a different approach, more natural and off the cuff and they are at a different level as well. So England need to have a serious look at themselves and where they go. If you look at their personnel, they are streets behind Ireland. If you look at one injury to a half-back, Danny Care comes in and while he is a great player, I think he's more of an impact player. Then they go to Wigglesworth who hasn't started a Test match in a while.

I think they are disorganised, their backline is very lateral and I think they have a long way to go.

We put it to him that Eddie Jones might regret talking so openly about winning the World Cup next year, as ultimately his pride gave way to an almighty fall.

I don't think he is bothered about perception. He gives good soundbites, and is brash and confident. The criticism of [Stuart] Lancaster as a Head Coach - obviously heh as worked wonders with Leinster - he seemed almost too modest for an English team. So that brashness reignited their confidence and self-belief, but now I think that they need to look at the rugby-specific skills and their gameplan to get to the next level.

He has ignited a big confidence in the squad, but that's taken a big dent this Six Nations.

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As England stew over their limitations, former England international and current BBC pundit Jeremy Guscott meditated on Ireland's superior team and squad by tossing the most backhanded of compliments across the Irish Sea, claiming that "Ireland, arguably, do not have any world class players in their Grand Slam-winning squad".

O'Leary disagrees.

I don't agree with that comment at all. Straight away they have the best half-backs in the world. Tadhg Furlong has to be deemed world class. Cian Healy is a Lion; the backrow has three Lions and Leavy is up there for player of the tournament; the wide men, I don't think any of the English back three would come into the Irish three.

I think that's a nonsense statement.

You can watch the show in full below.

See Also: Five Things That Need To Happen Between Now And 2019 World Cup

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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