‘If you don’t get it right, we’ll get nailed’: Accuracy order of the day as Ireland pick themselves up

THE ABRASIONS, BOTH mental and physical, of Saturday’s home loss to England will sting and linger for some time yet.

However, today was the day to get back on the horse in Carton House. Back in full training, it was time to refocus and reset. Time for big men to hone in on precise targets.

After his head coach spoke at length about ‘physicality’ in the aftermath of the crushing 20-32 loss to England, ‘accuracy’ was the key word of the day for Tadhg Furlong.

“We want to control what we can control,” says the tighthead, “as a player, especially as a front-five, you always want to bring that physical element to the game.

Furlong at Carton House today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“As long as you can control that and still deliver on accuracy… sometimes when you go out too hot-headed, it affects your performance. I think everyone is just focusing on trying to be as accurate as we can.”

Ordinarily a bright and genial figure in a press conference room, the Wexford man’s short answers and mostly dour expression spoke volumes of the hurt within the squad after beginning the year with defeat.They will go to Edinburgh not only feeling the need to win in order to keep their title defence alive, but to prove a point.

They will aim to prove it clinically, though, not furiously.

“Work harder and get stuff nailed down. Try to be more accurate. It doesn’t mean that we’ll go out absolutely banging our chests. We have to start accurately. You saw when we weren’t on our game two years ago what happened over there, they had a such a lead. We have to be composed and accurate.”

Furlong was just one of three straight-talking, hard-edged, forward-looking front row men offered up for media duty in Maynooth today. Scrum coach Greg Feek was able to veer a little bit further off the hymn sheet, but the sentiment was similar.

A response is demanded of this Ireland team, but cool heads too.

It wasn’t mentioned in Carton House, but the theory that such a loss will benefit Ireland by taking them back under the radar ahead of the World Cup was not one the former All Black was ready to get his head around.

Scrum coach Greg Feek. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Some people might say this is a good thing. It’s never a good thing for us to lose, nobody likes losing and no one likes having tries scored against them either,” said Feek, and a later query about the benefit of a team playing with the chip on their shoulder brought the idea across his lips again.

“Over the years, you talk about ‘a loss can be a good thing,’ but you still have to focus… you can’t be getting all overworked and overemotional about it.

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“You have to come back to getting the accuracy right, your preparation right. Also, backing ourselves.

“At Test match level it could be 5% difference one week to the other that can be the difference to how you perform and the result.”

Had Ireland proven the bookmakers right and extended their home winning streak by beating England, this week would be less about bouncing back and more about laying down a marker against Scotland, who Joe Schmidt’s men meet first up at the Rugby World Cup in September.

Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale, Sean Cronin, Ultan Dillane and Rob Kearney at training today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Feek, who has been coaching the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan, stressed the need to “put the binoculars away” and keep focus solely on the Championship at hand rather than the big one seven months away.

“Even though the World Cup is coming up, what is presented this weekend is a different situation,” says the Kiwi.

“To be honest, we haven’t really talked about it in that sense. It’s also giving respect to the Six Nations and what it is.

That lock situation is perhaps the greatest complication to be ironed out if there is to be a successful return to form. The ankle injury for Devin Toner means Ireland will without the brains and the totemic primary target at line-out time. With Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne also injured, Feek backed Quinn Roux to step in alongside James Ryan.

In the Meathman’s absence, all the attention to detail and precision Furlong refers to carries added importance.

This group will back themselves to perform no matter what the personnel involved, but their first task was to put England behind them so that they can go chasing wins again.

“Obviously lads were disappointed coming back in Sunday,” says Furlong, “but the nature of the game is that you have to recover, put that hurt aside because you still have to prep up for a Test match this weekend.

“You go through the highs and lows, physically and mentally you’re low after a game but we still have to do our analysis, we still have to look after ourselves to ramp it right up at the end of the week.

“It’s not an easy place to go, Murrayfield, as we found out last time we were there.”

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