They may have come away with a fifth home win of 2020 yesterday, but Ireland captain James Ryan is hoping for a much better performance against Scotland next Saturday.
While Andy Farrell’s men did respond to the disappointment of their defeat to England with a 23-10 win over Georgia, many aspects of the display fell below the standards set by coaches and players alike.
Yesterday’s Guinness Series and Autumn Nations Cup encounter marked Ryan’s second successive outing as team captain and his first Test victory as skipper.
Although Jonathan Sexton is expected to regain full fitness ahead of the Scotland game – and consequently lead Ireland back into battle – Ryan will be doing his utmost to ensure they are in much better stead for their final competitive game of the calendar year.
“We want to see a top end performance this week. It’s a real challenge. As I said, Scotland are playing well. They’ll back themselves coming to the Aviva,” said the Leinster lock, ahead of next Saturday’s 3rd-4th place play-off in the Nations Cup.
We want to see a performance that we in the country can be proud of. Six-day turnaround, so much to work on.
“We’re disappointed with today (against Georgia), but at the same time it’s such a great opportunity now for us to get those learnings right and we really show up on Saturday.
“We’re probably going to end up parking this tonight or tomorrow morning. Really taking the lessons from it and then go after this week.”
Having led 20-7 at half-time with tries from Billy Burns and Hugo Keenan, Ireland could only add a Ross Byrne penalty after the restart as the impressive Georgians succeeded in thwarting the Irish attack.
From Ryan’s point of view, there was one particular area of the game that he felt was not up to the level required.
“Obviously the ruck wasn’t good enough. I thought we started well. I thought the first half was really positive, but we took our foot off the pedal in the second half. Definitely.
“I thought, as a forward, that’s one big area we need to be better at this week. Credit to the Georgians, I thought physically they fronted up massively in that second half. They got over the ball really well.
“The quality of their tackle was really strong, but we need to be much more accurate, much earlier at the ruck. That’s one area anyway.
“We will be hard on ourselves. It’s not the standards that it should be. We wanted to bounce back much better than that. We’ll have to take an honest look at ourselves tonight and tomorrow.
“If we want to finish the year on a really positive note next week with Scotland coming to town, we know we’re going to have to be a lot better than that.”
Despite their somewhat mixed form in 2020 – five wins at home and three defeats on their travels – Ryan is adamant that Ireland are on the right path under Farrell and his coaching team.
“I’ve no doubt we’re going in the right direction. Even in the games that we’ve lost recently, I’ve said the same,” commented the 24-year-old.
Today was just disappointing and sometimes you just have those days, but it’s not like we don’t know what to fix. They’re all very fixable issues. Today the ruck, a massive part of our game that we didn’t get right.
“Being able to be more efficient in that middle-third of the pitch and having the bit of variety of putting the ball in behind them or knowing when to play. We know ourselves what’s wrong.
“That’s great for us, there’s so much to work on. There’s a great opportunity for us this week to finish the year on a high with Scotland coming.
“As I said, I’ve no doubt we’re going in the right direction. We know how to fix things and it’s very much in our own hands.”
Regardless of how often they play under the current circumstances, it is still difficult for sportsmen and women across the country and in outside territories to be playing in empty stadiums without supporters.
Ryan agrees that the presence of spectators could add considerably to the team’s performance but, in their absence, it was Georgia rather than Ireland who generated the greater noise levels yesterday afternoon.
“You definitely miss the fans in the stadium massively. It isn’t the same. I’m not going to pretend that it is. You did miss the Irish people for those kinds of moments, those scores that we get.
“It definitely adds a bit. We can’t control that. We’ve spoken about creating our own energy. The Georgians probably did that much better in the second half.
“You could hear how vocal they were and we probably went a bit quiet. That’s another lesson that we’ll take.
“Particularly at the moment with these empty stadiums, it’s so important that we create our own energy, our own atmosphere. I thought they probably had the upper hand in that respect, in the second half,” he added.