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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Gaffney: Players Have Big Performance In Them

Gaffney: Players Have Big Performance In Them

‘Enthusiasm’ and ‘accuracy’ were two words that tripped off Alan Gaffney’s tongue when asked about today’s squad session in Auckland. The Irish backs coach is looking forward to Saturday’s showdown with his native Australia.

The Ireland players had their first training session at the Mt Smart Stadium No. 2 ground since their arrival in Auckland, and Alan Gaffney was pleased with what he saw.

“I’d rate it (the session) pretty highly actually. They trained with enthusiasm, they trained with a fair degree of accuracy,” he said.

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“We started off very, very good today. We’ve had some really positive meetings over the past 24 hours. It wasn’t panic stations after the weekend.

“We’ve got to eliminate the mistakes and be a little bit more accurate. We’re pretty confident in what we’ve come up with and the way we want to play the game, and we’ll go into it knowing that we can put in a performance.”

The team and replacements to face Australia in Saturday’s encounter at Eden Park will be named at 1.15pm New Zealand time/2.15am Irish time on Wednesday.

Gaffney and his fellow coaches have been busy analysing the Wallabies, who opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a bonus point 32-6 win over Italy.

“We’ve seen the way Australia play. We’re reasonably confident we know what they will do, but obviously anything can happen.

“Robbie Deans is a very astute coach and is highly respected in Ireland, as is the Australian team generally.

“We’ll go out there expecting certain things, but that may or may not happen. We’ve got to be able to adjust and adapt on the night, depending on what occurs.”

Ireland’s three tries against the USA last Sunday all stemmed from set piece ball. A number of back-line moves either broke down or were smothered up by feverish American tackling.

Asked about the improvements needed in the running lines, Gaffney replied: “We’ve got to make sure we get our alignment right instead of taking too much out of the ball, going too far into contact and creating too much pressure on the outside support players.

“They are little areas we’re not quite getting right at the present time. It is not necessarily a skill level thing but it is some of those decisions. That is where a lot of the errors are coming from.”

The Sydney-born coach is an admirer of Australia’s talented half-back pairing of Quade Cooper and Will Genia. Cooper was a try scorer when Ireland lost 22-15 to the Wallabies on their summer tour last year.

Scrum half Genia’s only previous appearance against the men in green was in the 20-20 draw between the sides at Croke Park in November 2009.

Giving his assessment of the Queensland Reds duo, Gaffney commented: “Cooper’s got exceptional skill levels, he’s got fantastic vision and obviously very, very good pace. A very, very good player, world class and a very difficult player to handle.

“We realise Genia is in absolutely outstanding form. I can’t speak highly enough of Genia, he’s just a special player. I think he is extremely important to Australia.

“But right across the board the Australian back-line have got so much potency in what they can do, so we won’t be concentrating on any one particular player. We’ve got trouble across the board there.”

With so much quality in both back-lines, an explosive battle is in prospect up front as the packs both scramble to provide quick ball for the danger men out wide.

Apart from looking to ‘out-Rocky Rocky’, number 8 Jamie Heaslip is keenly aware of what is required this weekend against Elsom and his colleagues.

“I think to create momentum and space for our backs we’re going to have to carry the ball hard and run at them, and then on their ball be very physical on the line and win the battle of the gain line,” he said.

Gordon D’Arcy, who also played with Elsom at Leinster, is quietly confidently that Declan Kidney’s men can upset the form book and overcome the Wallabies for the first time since 2006.

“I believe fully across the board that we can match Australia and beat them. But they’re still the form team coming into the Rugby World Cup,” said the centre.

“They are a very good team. It would be foolish to say otherwise. But we can’t put them on a pedestal, we’ve got to look at them like any other team that we’ve ever faced and just go out and beat them.”

Follow the Ireland team in New Zealand on www.twitter.com/irfurugby.