FORMER IRELAND INTERNATIONAL Bernard Jackman believes that Caelan Doris would be a certainty to start for the British and Irish Lions if they were picking a team now.
Ireland number eight Doris was brilliant last weekend as he helped his team to a bonus-point win over France.
Speaking on today’s episode of Rugby Weekly Extra, a podcast for members of The42, Jackman said Doris was a key point of difference between the sides in Dublin.
“He took it to another level and against a very good French team with power everywhere, with a good defensive system,” said Jackman.
“He constantly found holes. We’ve always known he’s got good footwork, good leg speed, and he’s a good ball carrier with a high work rate, but I thought his handling and ability to get the ball away in contact was at another level on Saturday.
“That’s what we needed. We needed that to unlock a dogged French defence. His pass to Ringrose… Doris, at 24 years of age, if there was a British and Irish Lions tour now, he would start. It’s so exciting.
“Peter O’Mahony was good, Josh van der Flier was good and he’s the world player of the year, but with Alldritt, Jelonch, and Ollivon in the opposition, with all those top-end back rows on the field, Doris was a step ahead of all of them.”
Jackman was impressed by Ireland’s collective performance as they made it two bonus-point victories from two in the Six Nations so far.
He pointed to Ireland’s clear game plan as the most striking element of their display.
“I thought we had a really clear plan of how we wanted to target this French team,” said Jackman.
“We had a high percentage of two-pass and three-pass plays, particularly early on. Towards the end when we got a bit tired, we started to go more one-out and that fed into the breakdown threat France present, but I thought we were able to get the ball a bit further out and that made the breakdown a little easier.
“It’s never easy but we avoided those massive hits, with the prime example there being the one by Atonio. You want to make those guys run left or right to make those tackles, rather than just straight up. I thought we did a really good job of that.
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“Our kicking game was good, Conor Murray did well. France have this philosophy of 20 seconds of madness and then if you’re not going forward, you kick. I thought Ireland copied that to a certain extent. At certain times when their momentum was gone, they put it up in the air and kick-chased.
“Even though we didn’t get a huge amount of ball back, because they were contestable, it was hard for France to launch anything significant. We know they’re very dangerous in open play, any turnover at the breakdown, that chip from Mack Hansen – that’s the type of possession they love and are incredible at exploiting. I thought we limited their ability to get good broken-field position.
“The most telling example of how we controlled the game was that they were in our 22 for 57 or 58 seconds and we were in their 22 for over nine minutes. The other thing is how France can score 19 points only being in your 22 for 58 seconds, that shows how dangerous they are, but that’s the most telling stat in terms of how well we dominated and managed the game.”
To get access to The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, which comes out every Monday with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella, as well as every Wednesday with Eoin Toolan, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie