The days of Twickenham annihilation and embarrassment by a massive scoreboard were supposed to be a thing of the past for Ireland, something last experienced in London in 2002, but records embarrassingly tumbled on Saturday afternoon when finding themselves on the wrong end of a 57-15 scoreline.
Last time Ireland visited Twickenham for a pre-World Cup warm-up, their performance in a 21-13 defeat in 2015 had serious repercussions, so you can only imagine what drastic measures this surrender will now cause.
Four years ago, Devin Toner and Tommy Bowe, players who had started all five matches in that year’s successful Six Nations title defence, failed to make the XV that ran out two weeks later in their tournament opener against Canada.
This time round at Twickenham, the pressure on performance admittedly was not as acute as Ireland, who made a dozen changes to their starting XV from the August 10 win over Italy and handed a first start to Ross Byrne at out-half, still have two more warm-up matches to go yet before they depart for Japan.
However, in a sweltering London after a warm-weather camp in Portugal, they will be disappointed that a massively disjointed defensive effort, along with an unreliable, error-ridden lineout, left them trailing 22-10 at the break following a first-half where England’s Maro Itoje and Manu Tuilagi were the stand-out players.
With England dominating, Irish hopes of securing the win that would have lifted them above Wales into the world No1 ranking was dashed. Come the finish, the eight-two try count was gravely wounding, the lack of physicality a worrying re-run of last February’s Six Nation loss in Dublin, and it has left Joe Schmidt with a mountain to chew on before they head to Cardiff next Saturday. Here are the RugbyPass player ratings:
ROB KEARNEY – 4
Started composed and showed class with two slick early passes, one that had Ireland probing down the left on eight minutes and then another quickly after to invite Jacob Stockdale chip ahead for Jordan Larmour’s try. Missed tackles then crept in and the sight of England’s No13, No14 and No15 all scoring before the break didn’t reflect well on his porous defensive coverage.
JORDAN LARMOUR – 5
One of just three repeat starters from the win a fortnight ago over Italy along with Garry Ringrose and Jean Kleyn, he showed good instinct in securing the bouncing ball from Stockdale’s confusion-creating kick to score on nine minutes. Also showed some maturity when kicking down the line with nothing on rather than feeling forced to create. It unravelled from there, though, and he was fortunate he bounced back up unhurt from a mighty second-half hit by the magical Tuilagi.
GARRY RINGROSE – 4
This was an eighth outing for his still-fledgling midfield partnership with Bundee Aki and they had their hands full containing England’s desire to play with width and get the barnstorming Tuilagi into the contest. Ringrose showed eagerness with an intuitive 12th minute tackle when shooting out of the line, while he was also alert in securing loose ball on his team’s 22 midway through the half. However, he was part of the general defensive malaise thereafter and the video review won’t be kind.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 24, 2019
BUNDEE AKI – 4
Needed to show his maturity at this level with rookie Ross Byrne operating inside him, but the necessary leadership didn’t materialise. There was one turnover won on 17 minutes when Ireland were still abrasive but he was culpably passive when the pressure ratcheted up with England going from two points down into a 19-point lead in a 17-minute spell either side of the break. Scored a late try but that wasn’t even a consolation.
JACOB STOCKDALE – 3
His outing was reminiscent of the flustered nightmare Bowe experienced when Ireland lost a 2015 World Cup warm-up in London. That cost Bowe his starting spot when the finals started and there will be an inquest now about his fellow Ulsterman. Stockdale is a natural going forward, his instinct illustrated by how his ninth minute kick ahead that left three England players confused and Larmour scoring. However, he was exposed for all three first-half tries, falling prey to the temptation every time of getting sucked in too narrow and not making a move-stopping tackle.
ROSS BYRNE – 4
Ian Madigan’s inexperience as a starter in the No10 slot was singled out as a prime reason why Ireland crashed out of the 2015 World Cup with Johnny Sexton injured. The soundings were this situation would never arise again, yet here were Ireland in London handing a first Test start to the Leinster back-up for Sexton a month out from their latest finals campaign. Byrne showed pluck off the tee, nailing an excellent touchline conversion with his first attempt, and he illustrated further confidence with a chip cross-field to Kearney. From there, though, his afternoon disintegrated, highlighting how much of a giant leap he will have to make at this level.
CONOR MURRAY – 4
He picked up from where he finished off last season, lacking sharpness and being unable to give Ireland badly needed composure. The early signs were worrying. He was too slow to prevent an Itoje steal at an Irish ruck and then threw a forward pass. This unease eventually cost points, Murray caught out patrolling the short side of the scrum as England gallivanted away on the other side to score their opening try. Came through his HIA test after a collision with Jonny May, but offered little after returning and soon left again.
CIAN HEALY – 5
Left Ireland with their hearts in their mouths when looking in serious pain on the Twickenham turf a minute before the interval. Thankfully, he walked off to be replaced despite having an ankle that needs to be scanned. He will have left knowing his effort wasn’t a major part in his team’s destruction as he was one of the rare few who stood up. Did concede the opening three points, getting penalised at the scrum.
RORY BEST (capt) – 3
This was an afternoon when the 37-year-old looked as if he is over the hill and rolling fast down the other side. There was no effective leadership shown amid his pack’s shredding and his inaccuracy at the lineout was mortifying. You would have thought after losing three of five throws in the first half, the interval chat would have been to treat the bleed and take no risks. However, failure to find Iain Henderson at the tail on halfway left to Itoje scoring just four minutes after the restart.
Ohhhhhhhh @maroitoje ?
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) August 24, 2019
TADHG FURLONG – 4
Looked like a guy who has been on a programme of heavy training and is some way away from his peak. Brought none of the energetic power that is now an expected part of his game away from the set-piece and his forgettable afternoon was summed up by his missed tackle on try-scoring Itoje’s run to the line early in the second half.
IAIN HENDERSON – 4
Started promisingly as it was his forceful steal at an England maul that stole Ireland the possession which led to Larmour’s try. There was also some breakdown foraging, including a penalty win for English holding on midway through the opening half, but there the positives dead-ended. His lineout calling was amateurish, putting too much pressure on the unreliable Best, and he had no answers to the sublime Itoje show.
JEAN KLEYN – 3
A second start for the South African who has been catapulted into the Test mix after becoming eligible under residency this month and he had a chastening time. He was left unsupported on first ruck carry in the opening minute, having the ball taken by Itoje, and his dull performance never picked up from there.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) August 24, 2019
PETER O’MAHONY – 4
He knew he needed to get through the ugly stuff but he had no answer to the breakdown scavenging of a superior, physical England pack. Even bread and butter stuff went awry, Itoje pilfering a first-half lineout off him which was hugely deflating.
JOSH VAN DER FLIER – 4
There is a huge focus on him with injured duo Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy both out of the World Cup picture and this effort won’t do his credentials much good as he was anonymous compared to the likes of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. He was busy with his tackling for a time, but that was about it in a back row that lacked balance and cohesion as a trio.
CJ STANDER – 3
He has a habit of failing to make an impact when up against Billy Vunipola for club and country and his contribution was again minimal. He is traditionally a slow enough starter nearly every club season, taking a while to get up to pace, but he doesn’t have that luxury in a World Cup year. His despairing tackle as Tuilagi skipped in to score signified the lethargy, the No8 arriving across way too slowly off the back of the scrum. Also offered nothing in the ball-carrying department.
WATCH: Here’s how Maro Itoje set the scene with RugbyPass ahead of England’s match with Ireland
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