Former Munster player and current coach Fiona Hayes joined Monday Night Rugby to discuss why Ireland missed so many tackles against Italy.
Italy are definitely an improving team. This is likely the best Italy team to ever exist. So Ireland can feel good about their 34-20 victory in Rome with so many key players missing.
But while the result itself was good and Italy must be respected, Andy Farrell won't be happy with his defence. Ireland missed 27 tackles in the game, 20 in the first half. Italy missed 18 over the full 80 minutes. So Ireland missed more tackles in the first half than Italy missed in the whole game.
Nobody would have expected that.
Garry Ringrose's late withdrawal from the team during the week leading up to the game obviously hurt. Bundee Aki prepared as if he was going to play 12. He spent the whole game at 13. Stuart McCloskey and Aki had never played together in the centres, and neither of them had played with Ross Byrne.
Fiona Hayes examined where it all went wrong.
"I looked at them coming out, they actually looked a little lethargic," Hayes said.
"As the game started I thought defensively they were a lot slower coming up. But I think that's got to do with the personnel. You're getting used to guys you haven't played with before. We know the way Ireland like to defend, they're very compact. But they like their wingers then to stay out on the 15.
"That leaves massive work for the 13 to try and get out to connect when the ball is moving in that direction. So there was a massive gap between Bundee and Lowe."
Garry Ringrose has famously developed into a great defensive 13. Brian O'Driscoll regularly gives him plaudits for his performances there. Ireland hinge their defence off of Ringrose a lot of the time, which made replacing him very difficult.
But that channel wasn't the only problem for Ireland against Italy. They can't simply say 'Ringrose was out so we couldn't defend.' They will need to perform better if they are going to win in Scotland.
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