After his side was given a tough examination by the USA, Ireland ‘A’ coach Allen Clarke praised the players’ attitude as they scored three late converted tries in their 46-9 Barclays Churchill Cup win in Kingston on Wednesday.
Ireland ‘A’ scored 34 unanswered points as they broke clear of a battling USA side to set up a winner-takes-all clash with England Saxons in Toronto on Saturday.
The winners of that game will face Scotland ‘A’ in the Churchill Cup final in Chicago on Saturday week.
With only two full days to recover from their exertions against the Americans, coach Allen Clarke will keep a close eye on his players over the next 48 hours but he was admittedly pleased with aspects of the seven-try success.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “There are certain aspects of our play that we have to fine-tune for Saturday but the key thing now is how we look after the players with such a tight turnaround.
“The attitude was excellent today and we are looking for the same going into Saturday.”
Ireland ‘A’ edged out the Saxons in a memorable plate final at the 2006 Churchill Cup but the English men have won the sides’ two most recent encounters – 32-5 at Ravenhill in February last year and 31-13 at Welford Road four months ago.
Flanker Neil Best, man-of-the-match in the win over the Americans, agreed that Ireland ‘A’ will have to put in an improved display to have any chance of beating the Saxons this weekend.
“We’ve got to raise our game for England. They are favourites for this tournament and we have to play at that standard. The key thing for us now is recovery,” said Best, after what was a bruising encounter full of big hits and collisions.
Commenting on his side’s display, USA coach Scott Johnson was left rueing the leaking of those tries in the final quarter.
“Sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t reflect the effort shown. The first half was great, but our execution in certain areas was not so great,” said the Australian.
“It was an improved effort from four days ago (when we lost 64-10 to the Saxons), but we let ourselves down late in the match and it is important to know that.
“If the score would have been closer, I’m afraid it would have hidden a few of the issues that we do need to focus on.”