Grand designs not the finished article yet

Ireland… 34

Italy… 20

In assignments like Saturday’s at the Stadio Olympico in Rome, teams like Ireland are on a hiding to nothing. Win by a big score and you’re only doing what you’re supposed and expected to do. Don’t, and there’s obviously something fairly drastically wrong.

On this occasion, Ireland probably fell between the two stools. It seems almost spiteful to pick holes in a five try performance during which the bonus point was safely deposited in the vault well before the short whistle.

But the fact that they only tacked on one more try whilst allowing the Italians play themselves within one score on a couple of occasions simply wouldn’t be good enough against a better opponent.

Mack Hansen was a deserving winner of the Player Of The Match – as it’s nauseatingly now titled – but, not for the first time, I would contend the basis of the victory lay with the Irish pack.

Caelen Dorris in particular. The Mayoman has already checked himself into the pantheon of Irish back row forwards, but, today, it was the shift put in without the ball which was even more telling.

Similar sentiments can also be affixed to Josh van der Flier and James Lowe and captain for the day, James Ryan. The latter marking a proud day for himself and his family, crossing for his side’s first five-pointer after only a few minutes.

James Ryan got Ireland’s first try

Hugo Keenan, Hansen and Bundee Aki also crossed the whitewash in Act I but it will surely concern Andy Farrell that his charges conceded a triumvirate of ‘Majors’ at other end.

Thus the tourists took a 24-17 lead with them to the dressing rooms. Now, it would be fairly confidently asserted that at no point did Ireland seem like losing this encounter but the topsy turvy nature of today’s performance could land you in hot water against a better class of opposition.

For now though, designs on a Grand Slam triumph remain intact and after three rounds that’ll do.

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