Ireland must target England fly-half George Ford if they are to upset the odds

Gordon D'Arcy
Ireland must target England's playmaker, Geore Ford - 2017 Getty Images

England can be beaten. Forget the doom merchants who would have you believe this Ireland team have gone backwards or sideways. This has been a tournament of fine margins. Had Robbie Henshaw not been judged to have entered a maul illegally against Wales last week, Ireland might be playing for the Championship.

England are an excellent team. They do not really have many weaknesses so you have to look at what other teams have done to them and consider what has worked and what has not.

For me, one obvious thing Ireland should do is target George Ford. There are plenty of 10s who shirk the responsibility of tackling but he is not one of them. However, if you are looking for a chink, he is the weakest link. Ford is the smallest guy on the field. When you run into Owen Farrell you are almost knocked off your feet. I know from experience. He is the opposite to Ford.

There are numerous examples of how England shuffle Ford around the pitch, move him to scrum-half for defensive line-outs for instance, or bring other guys in to help him. And it is worth it because he is such a classy operator. But from an Irish perspective, it is there to be exploited. We have to get the likes of Jamie Heaslip and C J Stander running at Ford. Drag him into a physical game, get him to the bottom of a ruck. Make him tackle Sean O’Brien, make him tackle Robbie Henshaw.

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If England are pulling other people out of position to help him out – against Scotland Jack Nowell came off his wing to ensure Ford did not have to tackle John Barclay alone – that creates space elsewhere on the pitch.

The other big thing is to starve England of possession. Italy dominated possession in that first half at Twickenham and went in ahead at half-time. If you can hold the ball, you will get opportunities.

How Ireland will target Ford to create space out wide

And England do concede tries. Every team have scored tries against them. We can score tries. Less than six months ago, we scored five against the best team in the world. We scored three against Scotland, nine against Italy, we produced a very efficient performance against France. I think too much has been made of our offensive struggles.

England are playing under huge pressure, chasing a world record and a Grand Slam. Ireland can use that. The longer we stay in the game, the harder it will be for England.

Gordon D’Arcy is part of the Accenture Analysis Team during the RBS Six Nations. Follow @AccentureRugby or visit accenture-rugby.com

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