Italy v Ireland, Six Nations Championship, March 14
Gaffney predicts more open encounter
March 9, 2009
Ireland assistant coach Alan Gaffney is expecting his side to find more space against the Scots at Murrayfield © Getty Images
Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney is confident the Grand Slam-chasers will be able to throw off the shackles in their latest Six Nations clash with Scotland.
Declan Kidney's side opened their campaign in expansive fashion, scoring eight tries in their wins over France and Italy, but England's suffocating defence kept them to just one touchdown in their 14-13 victory at Croke Park. Leg four of what could possibly be their first Grand Slam since 1948 takes the table-topping Irish to Murrayfield, a venue where they stuttered on their two most recent visits.
But Gaffney, a vital cog in the Kidney regime, is predicting a "freer" match on Saturday and more try-scoring opportunities for his side. "Scotland will defend a lot differently to what England have done, what Italy have done and what the Welsh will do," he predicts.
"When I'm saying we'll be more expansive, we probably will be - but that doesn't mean necessarily you'll get the ball to the wing every time. There'll be a fair bit of ball in hand, I would say."
Former Ireland defence coach Graham Steadman is now working with Scotland, bidding to follow up their 26-6 win over Italy. Ireland came up against one of their former defence coaches, Mike Ford, two weeks ago against England - and Gaffney is not fazed by another reunion.
"We've got to look after ourselves," he said. "Graham Steadman's a good defensive coach - there's no doubt about that. He knows a lot of the way Ireland have played over the years. If you go out to try and second-guess, it's exactly what we tried not to do against England - are they going to put (Joe) Worsley at 10 for certain plays, are they going to stand him there?
"You can't do that. We've got to look after ourselves and be able to adjust if they do that. We might touch upon it [Scotland's defence] from time to time. But we won't dwell on it. We can't dwell on it."
Kidney, who will announce his team tomorrow (Tuesday), named an unchanged team for Ireland's first three matches in this season's Championship. Again, he has some tight calls to make. Centre Gordon D'Arcy and scrum-half Peter Stringer pressed their claims for inclusion by featuring for Leinster and Munster respectively in the Magners League over the weekend.
But the players keeping them out of the Ireland side, Paddy Wallace and Tomas O'Leary, have done little wrong to date - and the Irish management may just opt to stick with a winning formula.
'Darce' (Gordon D'Arcy) has been brought along slowly after recovering from his arm injury last year, initially by Leinster and obviously by Ireland. I think you can see a marked improvement in what he's doing from week to week," Gaffney added.
"He's getting more confidence in himself which is obviously a very important thing after being out of the game for so long. I thought he had a very, very solid game against the Ospreys. It's a great challenge (for the centre berth). Paddy's played well in the three games he's had - and also 'Darce' has put his hand up.
"It's a great contest there, and I think that's been one of the benefits that Declan has expressed in that we've got a lot on the guys on the bench who can have an impact."