Relentless Ireland receive All Blacks comparisons after latest triumph

Colin Newboult
Ireland celebrate during Six Nations victory over Italy in 2024.

Ireland celebrate during Six Nations victory over Italy in 2024.

Ireland are like the All Blacks for their ability to keep their foot on the throat, according to Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

Andy Farrell’s men produced another excellent display to overcome the Azzurri 36-0 in Dublin on Sunday.

Although they were expected to defeat the Italians – and do so comfortably – they were facing a team that tested England last weekend.

Set-piece issues

There were noticeable improvements in that Six Nations Round One contest, but it was almost back to square one in Dublin as the Irishmen dismantled their set-piece and stopped them from building any pressure.

Italy managed to stay in the fight and were defensively more resilient but Quesada felt that Ireland were relentless in their approach, which drew comparisons to New Zealand.

“Ireland compete so hard for the ball at the breakdown it slows the ball down for us and then they have very good line speed in defence,” he said.

“We prepared for them and we knew what they would bring but they are like the All Blacks when they get ahead they keep coming looking for more scores.”

After praising Ireland, Quesada then went on to criticise his own side, with the hosts having to do “nothing special” to emerge triumphant at the weekend.

“They didn’t need to do nothing special, just going through their system attack,” he said. “They were always on the front foot. And after certain phases we were kind of waiting for them in the first but it was a bit different in the second.

“I think until they got those 19 points of difference they could just go through their basics and because they had 100% of the lineouts, and 100% of the scrums it was easier for them. Then they just work with really extreme efficiency.

“It was frustrating for us because we wanted to put more pressure on them.”

Second-half improvement

Italy conceded three tries apiece in both the first and second half, but Quesada was more pleased with how they played after the break.

The issue came at the set-piece, which went from poor to being an absolute disaster in the final 40 minutes, as they failed to take advantage of their positive defensive work.

Quesada’s men earned plenty of penalty turnovers in the second period, but their shambolic lineout, combined with mistakes off first phase, meant that they were unable to build any sustained attacks.

“In the second half I think we were not that much on the back foot. We defended a bit better but it’s a game of rugby and it’s about putting the other team under pressure. We never forced them to make mistakes,” the Azzurri head coach added.

“I’ve only had just over two weeks with the team but I’m convinced of what we’re trying to do and how we want to play. I think we could be a bit more pragmatic in using our kicking game a bit better.”

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