15. Rob Kearney – 8
This Kearney approaching his best. Lively and dangerous with ball in hand and rock solid under the high ball. He had a 9 until I watched the first half back and saw it was his poor pass which led to Italian pressure on the Irish line and Parisse’s try. Still my Irish Man of the Match though
14. Tommy Bowe – 7
Two more tries for Bowe who proved that he remains ireland’s finisher. Ireland always seem more likely to score when heading to his wing.
13. Keith Earls – 7
Took his try well and another who picked up his game in the second half with Reddan’s arrival. Still a far cry from BO’D, but then what mere mortal isn’t?
12. Gordon D’Arcy – 7
Picked as my one to watch, and to be honest, he didn’t disappoint me. Ill disciplined at times, but he seemed to re-find his angles, made a cutting break in the first half and posed problems with ball in hand all afternoon. Everything is relative though, and he wasn’t up against much
11. Andrew Trimble – 6
His late try probably concreted his place for next week, but he was the weakest of the back five for me, with ireland seemingly favouring (consciously or not) the other wing when attacking. He looked good at times under the high ball in defence.
10. Jonathan Sexton – 7
Looked better with Reddan than he did with Murray, which will be another nail in the young Munsterman’s coffin. Kicked from ground very well in stark contrast to his opposite number
9. Conor Murray – 3
I’m loathe to give less than 5 to anyone, but I re-watched the game, specifically watching Murray’s game, and he was just like a fish out of water. Ponderous, slow pass, one-paced when “breaking”, unphysical. All of this was compounded by Reddan’s impact from the bench (which is where Murray will be sitting in Paris next weekend)
1. Cian Healy – 6
Quieter than I expected, but that could be due to being knocked out in the first quarter. Held his own in the scrum and did show in the loose, but far from his best.
2. Rory Best – 6
Or maybe more appropriately, Rory Not-at-his-Best. His line-out work let him down and ultimately led to Italy’s try. Somewhat visible in the loose, but this was his worst game in a considerable time
3. Mike Ross – 7
The best of the Irish front row, particularly in the scrum. Under-rated versus the other 2 members of the front row, but gradually making the jersey his own.
4. Paul O’Connell – 8
If he had played like he did in the second half before half time, he would have been higher. Impressive running, busy in the loose as ever and got his decisions spot on in the first half (Two kicks to the corner from kickable penalties, two tries).
5. Donnacha O’Callaghan – 6
Started reasonable but fell into obscurity. Kidney needs to put him, Donnacha Ryan and the public out of their misery.
6. Stephen Ferris – 8
Started quietly, like O’Connell, but seemed to wake up with his unselfish pass to Bowe for the second try. All-action thereafter and borderline Man of the Match
7. Sean O’Brien – 6
Looking ever more like a 6 in a number 7 shirt. Kidney needs to sort this soon or Ireland will continue to beat lesser teams while struggling against better-drilled outfits, as O’Brien just isn ‘t doing it at 7 (cue MOTM performance against Paris next week)
8. Jamie Heaslip – 7
Better than orevious weeks, much better. Up against arguably the best Number 8 in the world and showed glimmers of his best, but there must be more to come.
Eoan Reddan did more than twice as much in half the time after he replaced Murray. A stand-out performer in the last quarter who did enough to demand inclusion in Paris. O’Mahony and Ryan got 20 minutes (maybe more than expected) which could be a clue as to Kidney’s thinking for next week in Paris). Ryan did enough to suggest he merits inclusion ahead of the leggy O’Callaghan. Court, Cronin, McFadden and O’Gara had little time to make an impact, though Court managed to get a try and O’Gara broke O’Driscoll’s record as most capped Irishman.
by Mark Bonsall