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Ireland player ratings vs Italy | 2023 Summer Nations Series

By Ian Cameron
Ireland's scrum-half Craig Casey reacts as he is denied a try during the pre-World Cup Rugby Union friendly match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, on August 5, 2023. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)

Ireland player ratings: It was an odd match really, with only one winner possible even when the scoreline suggested a tighter affair. The game – and Ireland for that matter –  never quite found their flow and the rugby on display didn’t stir the soul of a bored Aviva Stadium crowd that spent much of the match chatting amongst itself.

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In the end, a scrappy Ireland came away with a relatively comfortable win, even if the 33-17 scoreline didn’t quite reflect their dominance. Here we rate the Irish players:

15. Jimmy O’Brien – 7
A very impressive first half from O’Brien who kicked well and looked to create with ball-in-hand rather than simply cede back possession to kick a happy Italian outfit. Replaced by Frawley after the break.

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14. Keith Earls – 5
The 35-year-old veteran of the Irish backline nearly set up O’Brien with a clever dink through in the first half. Wasn’t terribly involved after that and needs to show he can be a credible threat and not just a reliable cog in the machine.

13. Robbie Henshaw – 5.5
A weighty if not particularly noteworthy first-half from Henshaw, with tackle duty his primary concern. A few solid carries but nothing outrageous.

12. Stuart McCloskey – 6
Bulldozed his way over just before halftime after finding himself are the back of a turned-over ruck and proved a popular try-scorer among his peers.

11. Jacob Stockdale – 5.5
It’s no secret, Stockdale needs a big August if he is to crack Ireland’s 33. Got plenty of ball in the first half, carrying strongly in contact, if not ever breaking the blue line. His brilliant take of a high ball in the 20th minute nearly resulted in a try for O’Brien. Tried his heart out all evening but let himself down with an awful attempt at a tackle on Lorenzo Pani, the smaller winger batting him away with little effort.

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22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
2.5
13
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2.3
6
Entries

10. Jack Crowley – 6.5
Had plenty of kick tennis to endure with Italians putting boot to ball often in this encounter. Linked up well with McCloskey on his inside. Lost the ball in contact a few times when bringing to the line, but otherwise solid.

9. Craig Casey – 7.5
A bright start from Casey who provided a snappy and accurate service. Had a sofa ride from his forwards but looked sharp as hell.

1. David Kilcoyne – 7.5
Entered the game knowing his spot on the plane was more less guaranteed, but needing to up his ante if he is to displace Cian Healy as Ireland’s second-choice loosehead. Burrowed over for a try after 12 minutes just to remind Farrell and co of his considerable worth.

2. Rob Herring – 6
An impressive outing from a very solid operator, with Ireland’s lineout functioning well.

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3. Tom O’Toole – 6
The Drogheda-born tighthead had a solid outing, holding his own in the scrums and showcasing his physicality in open play. Played his part well in the front-row battles.

Points Flow Chart

Ireland win +16
Time in lead
70
Mins in lead
10
86%
% Of Game In Lead
12%
41%
Possession Last 10 min
59%
7
Points Last 10 min
0

4. Iain Henderson – 7.5
Leading from the front, the Ulsterman had a decent gallop up the park only to spill the ball, admittedly in greasy conditions. Other than that he was pretty much an indomitable force in the Irish pack.

5. Joe McCarthy – 6
There’s plenty of high praise coming out of the Ireland camp about the rookie lock, who won his first Ireland start here. Made his presence felt in the physicality stakes but you’d have liked to see him shine more here if he is to grab a place on the plane to France.

6. Ryan Baird – 6
The athletic flanker was a force to be reckoned with, making some bone-crunching tackles, providing a dynamic presence in Ireland’s back row even if there were no highlight-reel moments for Youtube here.

7. Caelan Doris – 7.5
Dove over the line off an Irish catch and drive in the 29th minute and grabbed a second in the 72nd minute to seal Ireland’s win. Was a menace at the breakdown and was maybe Ireland’s premier threat as a strike runner.

8. Jack Conan – 6
The in-form No.8 put in a few carries and hits before he worryingly came off before halftime to be replaced by Cian Prendergast.

Replacements – 6
The replacements made some competent contributions to the team effort, Cian Prendergast especially standing out. Tadhg Beirne brought his usual energy and aggression, while Caolin Blade gave a good account of himself when he came on for Casey. Cian Healy came on and scored try in the 65th minute, while Tadhg Furlong had a more subdued runout. The ever-versatile Ciaran Frawley kicked well.

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Poorfour 4 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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