IT WAS the last dress rehearsal before the 2015 World Cup and, from an Irish viewpoint, it wasn’t pretty.
Saturday’s display in the 21-13 defeat to England in Twickenham was particularly poor from the men in green. The hosts dominated the play and the territory from start to finish and, afterwards, the only disparity was that the scoreboard should have weighed heavier in England’s favour.
It was certainly not the finest example of tool-sharpening two weeks out from the greatest rugby tournament in the world. Before this encounter, Irish coach Joe Schmidt talked about hoping to see continuity from the starting combinations.
He will no doubt have left disappointed, for in truth, Ireland weren’t at the races and too many mistakes saw them unable to contest for victory. Here, we've rated each Irishman's performance, with little to shout about.
S Zebo: Was highly involved but badly caught out when Watson out-jumped him and gathered for England’s second try. Kicked well out of hand - 6/10
T Bowe: A very poor day at the office for the Ulster wing. A missed tackle on May, some poor handling and wayward kicking personified Ireland’s poor display - 4/10
J Payne: Defended well but once again offered very little in attack. His place could come under threat if his current form doesn’t improve - 5/10
R Henshaw: Also defended well but we didn’t really get to see his attacking strengths on display in Twickenham. A forward pass to Zebo could have seen Ireland in for a second half try - 6/10
D Kearney: Played well in a team that didn’t perform. Carried hard into the tackles and more often than not put Ireland on the front foot - 8/10
J Sexton: Didn’t play well behind a pack that was continuously second best, but his goal kicking was again faultless - 6/10
C Murray: Went off with concussion. Not on long enough to be rated.
J McGrath: The Irish scrum was solid throughout. However, he needs to get more involved in open play - 7/10
R Best: The Irish lineout held their own for most of the contest but did get turned over once five metres from the English line in the first half. Good clear out for O’Connell’s try - 7/10
M Ross: The Irish scrum was steady throughout, won two penalties and also managed to win two scrums against the head - 8/10
D Toner: Was inconspicuous from open play. Missed tackles in the first half but worked well out of touch - 6/10
P O'Connell (capt): Scored a try and tried to rally the troops until he was replaced - 7/10
P O'Mahony: Very quiet compared to his usual fare. Was beaten at the breakdown by Tom Wood - 6/10
S O'Brien: Was overshadowed by the English backrow and spilled ball on more than one occasion - 6/10
J Heaslip: Couldn’t stop the English backrow from dominating - 6/10
R Strauss: Worked hard when he was on the field - 6/10
T Furlong: not on long enough to be rated
N White: Scrummed well when he was on the field - 7/10
D Ryan: Up the work rate of the Irish pack - 7/10
C Henry: Ended up covering the wing position - 6/10
E Reddan: Had his hands full all day with Ben Youngs behind a pack that came up second best - 6/10
I Madigan: Tried to up the tempo to limited effect - 6/10
D Cave: Ran hard and helped a threadbare midfield by the end - 6/10
Man of the Match:
Ben Youngs: The scrum half was instrumental in England’s attacking play throughout his time on the pitch.
England: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, B Barritt, J May, G Ford, B Youngs, J Marler, T Youngs, D Cole, C Lawes, G Parling, T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Morgan
Reps: J George, M Vunipola, K Brookes, J Launchbury, B Vunipola, R Wiggelsworth, O Farrell, S Burgess
Ireland: S Zebo; Tommy Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, D Kearney, J Sexton, C Murray, J McGrath, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip
Reps: R Strauss, T Furlong, N White, D Ryan, C Henry, E Reddan, I Madigan, D Cave
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)