As the build-up to Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash at Croke Park continues, Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney has given his opinion on the selected English back-line which includes Toby Flood at out-half.
When you consider that England have started seven different out-halves in their last ten Test matches, it seems hard to analyse just what sort of attack plan they will work off against Ireland.
Having comprehensively viewed their recent games, Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney says he is expecting something similar to the offensive approach they adopted against Wales last time out – but that they do have the ability and skill to change things up.
“I don’t know if (their approach) will change all that much. Obviously they scored two tries to one against Wales,” he said.
“They’ve got some players who can attack, no doubt about that. They’ve got some quality players.
“(Riki) Flutey’s an exceptional stepper, (Toby) Flood likes to attack, (Mike) Tindall’s a very direct player and they’ve got pace in the back-three.
“We wouldn’t expect that they’re going to change a helluva lot from where they’ve been but they’ve got the capacity to do it if they so elect.”
The only real talking point surrounding England’s selection for Saturday’s game is Martin Johnson’s decision to start Flood at number 10 and drop Andy Goode to the bench.
Giving his take on it, Gaffney added: “Obviously they’re playing players for different reasons. Martin Johnson and all his staff…there’s good reasons why they played Andy Goode. He’s a player that can do phenomenal things on his day.
“When Flood came on against Wales, he probably added a little more solidity to what they wanted to do on that particular day.
“I don’t know the reasons why they’ve changed but I suspect it could be along those lines.”
Gaffney has plenty of experience of the English club game as a former director of rugby at Saracens and reckons that Flood could pose Ireland some problems.
“I think he’s a good player. He played with a very good back-line up at Newcastle,” explained the Australian.
“That was an exceptional back-line up there, maybe they didn’t have the forwards to compliment what they had with Wilkinson, Noon, May and Tait (in the backs).
“I think Flood adds a lot. He’s reasonably strong defensively and has got a good eye for the game.
“Maybe he’s not the 100% goal-kicker but then again, I suppose Goode hasn’t been that successful in recent weeks himself.
“So I think Flood’s a talented player and there’s no doubt he’s one of their back-line that we’ll have to keep a close eye on.”
Ireland may look to expose Flood’s defence down the 10 channel but against Wales, England moved flanker Joe Worsley into the back-line and a similar ploy may be used at Croke Park.
Gaffney says Ireland will be well-prepared for whatever defensive allignments the visitors adopt.
“Whether they defend with Worlsey at 10 or whether that was purely for (the Welsh centre) Jamie Roberts – we will prepare for both. It could be something entirely different to that again, it just depends what they throw up.
“I think we’ve got the capacity to adjust as the game goes on and we’ve looked at it using varying scenarios and we believe that we have the plays – the starter plays as we say – to be able to cope.
“The way the game has gone, they were able to play Worlsey between 10 and 12 in lineouts. They changed their lineout defence entirely from the autumn and the first round of the Six Nations and they also defended with Worlsey at 10 on scrums.
“Whether they go back to the defence they used in round one remains to be seen, but as I said we’re just going to have to adjust to whatever they do.”
Asked if there will be added pressure on Saturday’s match referee Craig Joubert, given the English management’s comments on his South African colleague Jonathan Kaplan who refereed their game in Cardiff, Gaffney said he has full confidence in Joubert.
“I’ve seen Craig Joubert referee a number of times and I think he’s a very, very good referee.
“He’s one of the top breed of South African referees and I don’t think he’ll be overawed by what England have said.
“It’s a difficult enough job that which referees have at the present time, without trying to put more undue pressure on them.
“Players don’t get it right all the time, coaches definitely don’t get it right all the time and referees are going to get it wrong sometimes. That’s just part and parcel of the game and I think that’s what we’ve got to accept.
“As I’ve said, I think he’s a very good referee and we’ve looking forward to playing under him.”
Gaffney added that doing homework on each referee was now just another facet of the modern game and that Ireland are eager to maintain the sort of disciplined form which saw them concede only two penalties against France.
“There’s no doubt there’s a lot of work done on referees. Every referee has his penchants.
“There are certain areas of the game where referees concentrate. But all round, we think Joubert’s very fair.
“I think our discipline has been very good. The boys have cut out a lot of those penalties that can be cut out, the ones you’re always going to commit.
“Everyone rides close to the line and that’s the way you’ve got to play the game.
“We’re not lilywhite by any stretch of the imagination but we try and play as close to the line as we can,” he added.