Neil Francis, a former Ireland international, has accused Joe Schmidt of playing ‘Warrenball’ – the term coined to describe the tactics of Wales manager Warren Gatland in recent years.
Neil Francis, writing in his column for the Irish Independent – outlined why he believes Ireland will have too much for Scotland to handle on Saturday, but was also keen to recognise the similarities between Ireland’s tactics and those of the Wales sides that won the Grand Slam in 2008 and 2012.
The former Leinster man – who made 36 appearances for Ireland over a nine-year spell, pinpointed how Ireland’s victory over Wales saw Schmidt beat Gatland at his own game in a sense, by moving the pack forward in order to garner momentum, while having big men like Chris Farrell and Bundee Aki in the centre to get a quick ruck ball in place which handed Ireland the initiative.
Aki bundled over a try late in the first-half, while Jacob Stockdale grabbed two, and Farrell was named the man of the match in what became an ultimately routine victory.
The 53-year-old also pointed to the likenesses in stature and style between some of Ireland’s key players now and Wales’ in 2012:
“I couldn’t sleep the other night – something just gnawing at me. Just something vaguely familiar about the way Ireland are playing their rugby. Get the pack going forward, one-out runners, get them around the corner and garner some momentum and a little room and then progress from there.”
“Then you pick two huge men in the centre. For Ireland you need dynamic ball carriers at 8, 12 and 13 for this tactic to work. CJ Stander is up there with Taulupe Faletau and Chris Farrell is as big, if not bigger than Jamie Roberts – oh my God, Ireland are playing ‘Warrenball!’”.
While many supporters will not appreciate the comments given the somewhat fractured relationship that Gatland has endured with Irish rugby as of late – should, as Francis coins it, ‘Joeball’ bear similar successes, then fans will surely have no problem with it.
Ireland sit just two wins away from their first Grand Slam since 2009, and face a tough test at home to Scotland on Saturday in order to keep the dream alive. No matter what tactics are adopted on the day, all that is desired is the victory – whatever way it may come about.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena.