Without Remorse

Wales 10 - 34 Ireland - Post-Match Analysis (Without Remorse) Header Photo
The Dam Bursts: Josh van der Flier crosses the whitewash for Ireland’s bonus point try on Saturday afternoon. After storming into a huge lead in the opening half hour, Ireland were forced to work hard to hold off a spirited Welsh fightback in the subsequent 30 minutes. While the middle part of the game was frustrating to watch in some ways, it was probably better preparation for Ireland ahead of their clash with France than a facile win.

Ireland began their 2023 Six Nations with a bang on Saturday afternoon in Cardiff, surging into a 24-point lead within half an hour, and weathering a Welsh storm in the middle of the game to ultimately secure a try bonus point in the closing stages. The hosts had very little time to settle in under a new coaching ticket, and Ireland identified this, making it their business to impose themselves on Wales from the off.

Wales have been slow starters in this tournament at various stages over the last decade, and while Ireland caught them on the bounce without putting in an entirely complete performance, it says a lot about their mental fortitude that they took the chance in front of them with both hands instead of being overawed by a venue where wins have been hard for them to come by lately.

Blistering Start

Ireland used the boot regularly throughout this game, and even though they didn’t win as many aerial contests as usual, they did a good job of pinning Wales deep in their own half and putting them under pressure to scramble back in the earlier parts of the game:

Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are both fantastic attacking threats, but the former is inexperienced at Test level and the latter can sometimes be slow on the turn. Liam Williams is dangerous on the counter-attack, but with Leigh Halfpenny being ruled out of the side during the week and Williams being a winger turned full-back, there was an opportunity to put Wales under territorial pressure and Ireland did just that.

This provided Ireland with solid platforms, and they opted to use battering-ram tactics rather than intricate wide-wide movements early on, and it paid off. The Irish pack were bullish in their efforts to bludgeon Wales, scoring two near-identical tries within the first ten minutes of the game:

It was a simple but brutally effective strategy, and although James Lowe’s try was fortuitous, it was a good read on the winger’s part, and it put Ireland in the driving seat. Despite their achievements in this World Cup cycle, Ireland have been guilty of squandering try-scoring chances, but this was as clinical a quarter of rugby that we have seen from them under Andy Farrell, and hopefully a sign that they have taken their game to another level.

Purple Patch

Wales were never going to fold completely, though, especially at home, and conceding such a big lead prompted a response from them. There was a greater urgency in everything that they did (particularly their defence), and while Ireland held them out for the most part, they didn’t do themselves any favours with repeated moments of ill-discipline:

Penalties for incidents such as the above invited Wales back into the game, and had they been further along the track under their new coaching ticket, this game could have gone very differently for Ireland.

That being said, having their character tested in such a manner will be of benefit to Ireland in the long run, and they were more than up to the task. Wales got deep into their half several times, but Ireland showed their mettle and resilience by coming up with crucial interventions time and time again:

It’s odd that it took Ireland until the 73rd minute to put this game to bed when they were so far ahead on the scoreboard in the first quarter, but that’s the type of challenge that forges successful teams. They have some difficult fixtures to play for the rest of this tournament, and being put through their paces defensively for a large chunk of this game will stand to them.

The Need For Refinement

Outside of their penalty count, there are a few other areas that Ireland need to sharpen up on before France come to Dublin this weekend. Fabien Galthié’s side were given a genuine scare by Italy in Rome yesterday, and regardless of the six-day turnaround for their meeting with Ireland, there is bound to be a jump in performance levels from them.

With that in mind, Ireland will have taken note of the areas where Wales exerted pressure on them, one of which being at the ruck. Last year, Ireland struggled to get their attack motoring properly against France and South Africa due to intense pressure at the breakdown, and Warren Gatland and co. took heed of this.

The Welsh forwards went out of their way to make life difficult for Ireland with aggressive counter-rucking, and although they got penalised on a couple of occasions for doing so, they did manage to disrupt the quality of Ireland’s ruck ball at times after the first 30 minutes:

The French pack were surprisingly flat against the Azzurri, but given the success they enjoyed in pressurising Ireland in this department last year, they are guaranteed to be tenacious in their efforts to repeat the dose.

One other aspect of Ireland’s performance that will come under scrutiny is their work in the wider channels. They did find space in midfield and beyond numerous times throughout the game, but they were also snared behind the gain line more than once, too, Garry Ringrose in particular:

The Leinster centre carried his stellar form into this fixture, and it was excellent defensive reading on Wales’ part, but Ireland can’t afford to get into this kind of trouble when they move the ball into the second layer against France as defensive plays are a vital part of what Les Bleus do, so conceding yards like this will only serve to energise them.


This is as good a start as Ireland have had in this tournament under their current coaching ticket, and it puts them in a strong position to achieve a first win over France in this World Cup cycle. Not having beaten Les Bleus since 2019 makes this Saturday’s clash with them somewhat intimidating, but Andy Farrell has instilled a mindset of not being daunted by big challenges into his players, and that was evident in how they went about their business in the Principality Stadium yesterday.

Galthié’s team won’t get caught off-guard in this competition again so will be formidable opponents, and Scotland and Italy look set to be sterner opposition than in recent years, and that’s before you get to an England team that have a lot of room for improvement. It makes for a more arduous schedule for Ireland than appeared at first glance, but in a way, it’s ideal preparation for a tough World Cup pool later this year.

Wales will be better than what we saw from them at the weekend, but Ireland can only play what’s in front of them, and in spite of the long period of Welsh pressure that they had to withstand, they were professional and accurate in much of what they did. The scrum calls from Karl Dickson were 50/50, but Ireland’s lineout was faultless, and there were no major glaring defensive errors outside of Liam Williams’ try. Stable foundations and more are a must to beat a team of France’s calibre, but on the basis of what they produced against Wales, Ireland should be at least competitive against their visitors this Saturday.


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