Ireland kick off their Six Nations campaign against Wales on Sunday
Ireland will kick off their Six Nations campaign against Wales on Sunday, but after a loss against Argentina in the World Cup, there are some weaknesses that teams who come up against Ireland will look to target.
Speaking on Off The Ball on Saturday, Murray Kinsella of The 42.ie, Ruaidhri O'Connor of the Irish Independent, and former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan pinpointed where the game will be won and lost, and how Wales will look to attack Schmidt's set-up.
Kinsella highlighted that Jared Payne would have a crucial role to play in "filling that space on the outside edge, where Wales are going to come at them. Wales have looked to move to a game plan that's wider and actually adding a little bit of extra passing. They'll be direct again, but they have targeted teams and had success out in the wide channels".
Image: ©INPHO/Gary Carr
O'Sullivan, on the other hand, felt that Payne alone would not solve the problems that have been shown up in Schmidt's side since the World Cup.
"I think our set up has been too narrow for a long time. We've been building too many defenders around the ruck, saying to teams 'you're not going to go through us' [and inviting them] to go around us".
He added that Ireland were caught by Italy on a number of occasions as a result of that set up, including by Italy, but that they simply didn't have the players or the power to really hurt Ireland.
"We set up defensively, added O'Sullivan "tight around the ruck where we're not going to give teams the capacity to penetrate us. If you put all your horses there, you're going to be weak on the corners, and it's about finding that balance".
The former Ireland coach stated that, with Ireland committing so many to the ruck, it opened up the opportunity for the opposition to take four players out of the game with a single pass.
Kinsella echoed those concerns, highlighting that in the World Cup "Italy did actually cut [Ireland] on the outside edge, I think it was Peter O'Mahony who made a try-saving tackle. That's potentially a loss against Italy in the World Cup and, not to be demeaning towards them, but the fact that Italy are targeting Ireland in that area is a massive concern".
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie
Ruaidhri O'Connor also stated that the battles in the collision will be a real worry for Ireland too, saying that "when you look at the ball carriers Wales have and the people who are tackling them, then you would be concerned as to whether Ireland can get any front foot in that scenario, whether they can drive Wales back, whether they can hold them up and whether they can stop Wales getting quick ball".
He added that it was a real cause for concern becaue "not only are Ireland vulnerable on the edge, they're also vulnerable in the tight, and when you combine those two...that's what happened against Argentina".