“One change has been made, with a number of changes on the bench,” Andy Robinson said in his opening statement. It was a line to kick things off, but it was more of a statement of how, for the next game at least, Robinson had no intention of making radical alterations to his tactics.
There was no bolter. There was no spiel about how someone had to come in to make a point and grasp that starting place. Sure Ruaridh Jackson was pushing out Duncan Weir on the bench, but this was a place for one of Robinson’s known quantities. Robinson wants a carbon copy of the style that clattered into the French, with only the slightest of embellishments.
“Sean is multi-tasking again by playing on the wing. I’ve picked Morrison and De Luca together. I thought De Luca responded very well after being dropped for the sin-binning, and we need him to perform like that [his appearance against France] in this game.
“The challenge for us is to start the way we did and be able to play for 80 minutes. If I go through the tries that we’ve conceded in this Championship: they’ve been soft scores. So we have got to have a bit of edge about our defence and be able to stop the opposition from scoring. I’ve seen that in the way we have defended so it is not that we can’t do it. It is just the fact that that the times when we have dropped off we’ve been punished.
“That’s what test rugby is about.”
No doubt he has made it clear to the players that change in tactics and personnel is not needed. He just wants standards to be higher. Here he made a big statement about the Irish back-row, labelling it World Class, and commented on the ‘choke tackle’ that Cusiter mentioned yesterday.
There are recurring themes with this squad and by naming the same pack, even though Euan Murray could come in for Geoff Cross, he has made clear his faith. Now that entire eight is being directed at a series of contacts and told, in no uncertain terms, that they must either burst through tangling tackles, or smash Irishmen on the wrong side out of the way.
“This weekend the breakdown is going to be huge. We’ve got to be able to deal with their choke tackle. The referee’s gotta be able to deal with that as well.
“The referee, firstly, must be clear when he calls a maul and secondly that we are able to get speed of ball from it, though that is for us to sort out, but the referee must be clear when a maul occurs and that happens when two people from either side are involved.
“I have had conversations with referees.”
When asked about his defence he was somewhat more guarded. He knows England didn’t attack much, but with Wales and France tries were allowed from slipped tackles and individual lapses.
“Against Wales we conceded a lineout on our line, defend with our lives and we drop off a tackle. We then lose a player to a sin-bin so we are defending with 14 and then defending with 13. It’s very tough. When we defended with 15 v 15 we matched them.
“Last week we drop off a tackle in the urgency of defence close to our line, and having previously shown that in the first half…”Robinson said, before going on to explain a series of distractions and fumbles. He is sure the defence was good, and that it was not the system but individual errors and turnovers that led to tries. “They are technical issues.”
“Against Ireland we have got to play with that [same] pace and that shape.”
Robinson knows that there must be the same ferocious volume of work. That is why the same back-row starts. That is why Evans, Vernon and Jackson are on the bench rather than more bulky, tactical players. He wants more running rugby. He just needs his players, who have bought into this vision, to make fewer errors when the heat is on.
As resurgent centre Nick De Luca says, “We are angry that we are not closing these games out. If we even want to be in with a shout this weekend we need 80 minutes of good rugby.
“Hopefully I’ll be involved in picking apart their defence. We have the ammunition and it is just making sure we execute.”
It seems the Robinson’s vision is one that rewards those that get up and keep running hard at it. There is no time to worry about stats, past mistakes or how jilted one is. They will be at the Aviva and they will need to focus on the individual skills at that same tempo, tearing down contacts right until the last second.