Loose Pass

Date published: March 18 2015

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This week we will be examining cracks in Ireland's armoury, Liam Gill's lucky escape, Brett Gosper's gaffe and Israel Folau's education.

Pressure but no points for Irish

As incredible as Wales' gutsy defensive showing against Grand Slam-chasing Ireland in their Six Nations clash in Cardiff was, Ireland's failure to break down their Celtic rivals was just as remarkable.

The official stats for the game recount how Wales made a record 250 tackles on their way to a 23-16 victory and in one epic passage of play they slammed the door in Ireland's face an awe-inspiring 32 times – or should that be the Irish fluffed their lines in the shadow of the posts a shocking 32 times?

Remember, this Ireland side is coached by Joe Schmidt, the New Zealander who not so long ago was being hailed as a tactical genius for orchestrating England's demise in Dublin yet he was unable to unlock a resolute Welsh defence – spearheaded by the likes of Sam Warburton and Luke Charteris who are probably still sitting in ice baths in the bowels of the Millennium Stadium.

On this occasion Schmidt has been undone by another canny Kiwi in the form of Wales coach Warren Gatland although in truth this is a victory for defence guru Shaun Edwards and the players he has instilled with an enviable desire and work rate.

In victory, and there had been 10 in-a-row leading up to this game, the modest Schmidt is quick to stress that his players lead this side and it is Paul O'Connell and co who will have to shoulder much of the responsibility for this blunt performance and high-profile failure.

A lack of ideas in the 'red zone' is only part of the problem with their decision making under the immense pressure exerted by Wales and their inability to execute and deal with the pressure of the occasion offering plenty of food for thought for Schmidt and at the same time hope to their rivals for the Six Nations title and the World Cup crown.

Gill's spectacular brain fade

Rugby can often serve up moments of brilliance but sadly also moments of madness.

I'm not even sure Reds flanker Liam Gill knew what he was doing as he upended Brumbies scrum-half Nic White during their Super Rugby clash but he will know he is an incredibly lucky man after picking up just a two-week suspension for his wrestling-style tackle.

The fact that the Reds have a bye week means that Gill will only miss one match which is arguably unacceptable for such a mindless and reckless assault that could so easily have ended badly.

Gill's clean record prompted a reduction from the four-week ban seen as the norm for such dangerous lifting and the disciplinary ruling pointed out that White did not land on his head – but this was more by luck than judgement.

References to WWE made light of the incident but we would not laugh about similarly dangerous acts like trampling or punching and Gill's actions carried the same risk of major injury. It was stupid and deserved to be punished and a week on the sidelines does not reflect that.

White is clearly not the only one to have had a narrow escape.

Gosper's Twitter gaffe

I like Brett Gosper. The World Rugby chief executive is a most welcome public presence when so many other powerbrokers are faceless suits locked away in boardrooms.

He has done much to drag the sport's governing body into the 21st Century since taking charge in 2012 and has not put a foot wrong in that time, well, until last week.

His 'England fail to exit pool in World Cup …Not the words we want to hear during #RWC2015' tweet following the England cricket team's exit from the Cricket World Cup may have been innocent enough but the 140-character limit of the micro-blogging site was always going to allow for misinterpretation.

It was a surprising and ill-advised move from an ex-advertising executive and was understandably pounced upon by England's World Cup pool rivals Wales who have no desire to see the tournament hosts progress at their expense.

History tells us that a successful host nation does so much to enrich a tournament but we do not need the organisers to remind us of that fact and risk the kind of undesirable headlines that flooded the web following Gosper's comment.

To his credit, Gosper remains committed to Twitter and continues to engage fans across the world – give him follow.

Folau will soon find his feet

Not since he masqueraded as George North's backpack during the British and Irish Lions' tour Down Under in 2013 has Wallabies flyer Israel Folau been so publicly humiliated.

Shackled, tackled and then robbed by the Highlanders' Malakai Fekitoa during their Super Rugby clash in Dunedin, Folau's failure to keep hold of the ball not only led to a superb long-range try for Fijian wing Waisake Naholo but also handed the hosts priceless momentum that would eventually carry them to victory.

It was a painful lesson for Folau who faces a steep learning curve as the Waratahs strive to get the ball-hungry and crowd-pleasing 25-year-old involved as much as possible.

Deployed at full-back in defence to capitalise on his counter-attacking class, Folau is now shifting to centre in attack with the Tahs' backline shuffling around him to accommodate their team-mate's unrivalled game-breaking skillset.

It is a move that Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has planned for a while and when you have one of the most insanely-talented players in the world in your ranks you would be a fool not to try to get him as much ball as you can.

It is clearly a gamble with the Waratahs' Super Rugby title defence on the line and a World Cup just around the corner but you sense it is a calculated risk offering possible outrageous returns.

I for one have no doubt that Folau will soon find his feet in midfield and soon the only ones getting humiliated at Super Rugby and international level will be those defenders unable to contain him.

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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