Trimble, Ryan and Earls excel in Ireland’s impressive win in Wales

December 15, 2022 0 By JohnValbyNation

JOE SCHMIDT IS set to cut seven or eight players from his Ireland squad next week, as he looks towards eventually selecting just 31 players to bring to the World Cup in September.

An excellent performance from his team in Wales this afternoon makes the task of picking 31 of his best players all the more difficult. A number of individuals impressed, with the men below chief among them.

Andrew Trimble

The Ulster wing got just 34 minutes on his return from a series of cruel injury problems but made very single one of them count.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

His smashing hit on Eli Walker to create Keith Earls’ try was the stand-out moment, but there was real quality in the vast majority of his contributions in the Millennium Stadium.

He was excellent in the air, defended with his usual level of intelligence and physicality and threatened whenever he was in possession. Schmidt is a huge fan of Trimble and on this evidence, he has every chance of playing a big role in the World Cup.

All fingers are crossed that the injury news on Trimble will be positive, equally so with the brilliant Tommy O’Donnell.

Keith Earls

Schmidt’s decision to start Earls in the 13 shirt was apparently a divisive one among Ireland supporters, but the Munster flyer showed up extremely well against an out-of-sorts Welsh midfield duo.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There were errors in this performance – two knock-ons in the first half and a handful of occasions when he slipped off tackles will frustrate – but Earls sparkled with intent in attack.

Took his try superbly and very nearly scored another in the first half after a gorgeous bit of footwork close to the line, only to be held up. There were also some good reads among his defensive contributions.

Picking out Earls over Darren Cave is a difficult thing to do, of course, with the Ulster centre constantly running superb lines that got Ireland onto the front foot. An excellent midfield pairing, with Cave showing his ability to cover 12.

Donnacha Ryan

Talk about bringing energy to the mix. Another man making an Ireland return after too long out of the picture due to injury, Ryan was very eager to make up for lost time.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He chased everything, harried halfbacks, smashed into tackles and lumped himself into rucks and choke tackles. His physicality makes him hugely attractive to Schmidt, while the ability to line out at blindside flanker offers the squad an extra option.

Set-piece duties were carried out effectively too, as Ryan combined well with Iain Henderson at the lineout and maul. Powered an excellent Ireland front row at scrum time and generally showed his intelligence.

Jamie Heaslip

Wow, an exhibition of a performance from Heaslip. At times, the number eight almost looked like a senior player dropping down to junior or U20 rugby to feature in this game.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Was allowed to canter in for his try, but it was the work away from that score that truly stood out. From metre-eating carries to smashing ruck hits to scrapping for turnovers on the ground, Heaslip did it all.

Captain for the day and always a leader by example, there were some excellent touches from Heaslip in terms of passing too. A joy to watch.

Eoin Reddan

Brought real zip to the Irish performance with his rapid delivery from the base of the rucks, with a crisp, accurate pass to match. The manner in which he picked out Heaslip for his try was supreme, skirting the ball past a pair of potential carriers to send his captain in for an easy score.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The quick taps when Ireland won penalties were a thrill to watch too, as Reddan burst out from inside his own half twice.

Conor Murray is the clear number one under Joe Schmidt, but the Kiwi head coach will have been enthused to see his back-up scrum-half deliver such a lively, accurate performance.

Richardt Strauss

Again, Ireland are already well aware who their first-choice hooker at the World Cup is going to be, but this was about one of Rory Best’s rivals offering up an illustration of strength in depth.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Strauss was rabid in seeking out and dominating contact, launching himself at the breakdown with a typical glee as well. Spent a stint in the concussion bin in the first half, but came back out strongly to show Schmidt his value.

Hit his targets with minimum fuss at the lineout and was part of a brilliant scrum effort. In that regard, Mike Ross deserves a strong mention too, his importance to Ireland once again standing out clearly.

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