What we learned today.
- Simon Zebo is going on the plane to the Rugby World Cup. The Munster man was asked the question from Ireland management to show his versatility and adaptability and he produced in spades. Zebo was exemplary under the high ball and was always looking for the gap when in the line. Zebo could do nothing for the tries but his cameo today has probably ended Felix Jones’ ambition of going to the tournament.
- Scotland are showing huge signs of improvement when compared to the dismal 6N campaign. They defended well in the opening half and then won the game line battle either side of half-time fronted by the Glasgow Warriors contingent. Ryan Grant injury looks like a serious blow but Scotland’s free flowing off load game will poise problems for South Africa in the RWC. The main improvement area is their ability to defend wide. Ireland found plenty of joy out on the flanks and Fitzgerald’s try exposed Scotland’s defensive strategy. David Denton’s carries were a huge positive. Vern Cotter needs to find a more reliable kicker than Peter Horne.
- The Ireland fringe players failed to fire today and suspect that Jack Conan and Gordon Darcy may be given the dreaded call to meet Joe Schmidt in the next couple of days. After promising starts, both players started to fall off the tackle count and Conan was exposed in the breakdown battle as O’Brien and Henry were more prominent in the opening exchanges.
- Ian Madigan is the enigma of the Ireland World Cup squad. Where do you play the Leinster man? His penalty kicking is good, his game management is improving with each passing game. Joe Schmidt has a decision to make at out-half. Jackson or Madigan as Sexton’s backup? Intriguing squad selection beckons.
- Ireland missed tackle count. I know it is pre-season but Ireland missed tackle count (21) was very high even for a pre-season match. Scotland’s offloading strategy isolated Ireland defensively which led to a couple of missed tackles but Schmidt will not be happy. The Wales game last weekend was the same recurring theme.
- Dave Kilcoyne posed Ireland management with a squad selection poser. The UL Bohs man produced an action packed performance in open play and was competitive in the set piece. Can Schmidt afford to leave Kilcoyne out of the squad with recurring injury concerns over Moore and Healy? Nathan White’s brief cameo did not shed any light to his World Cup prospects but Kilcoyne certainly made an impact.
- The officiating. Berdos was average at best and left several calls go. Zebo was maybe fortunate to stay on the pitch after his leg tackle in the second half. David Denton’s deliberate pulling down of the Ireland maul in the last five minutes should have seen yellow. The scrum was hit and miss – his emphasis on supporting body weight was fair enough but was too inconsistent with the scrum half delivery of ball into the scrums. The offside rule was never applied. Both teams required better officiating ahead of the RWC.