Byrne backs expansive Ireland

Former Lions tourist Shane Byrne believes his native Ireland are developing a style of rugby that will give them their best-ever chance of success at this year's World Cup. [more]

Byrne backs expansive Ireland

Former Lions tourist Shane Byrne believes his native Ireland are developing a style of rugby that will give them their best-ever chance of success at this year’s World Cup.

Ireland hammered England 24-8 in Dublin on Saturday as they spoilt the visitors’ Grand Slam party with a ruthless performance noted for its enterprise in attack and its intensity in defence.

And having failed to make the quarter-finals of the last global gathering in 2007, Byrne is hopeful that this new ‘total rugby’ approach will bring success in New Zealand this autumn.

"A lot of effort has gone in from Ireland to develop this all-out rugby, the way that Leinster are playing day in, day out in the European Cup," Byrne, who won 41 caps for his country between 2001 and 2005, told Talk Sport Radio.

"That’s all-out attacking rugby, keeping the ball in hand, offloading and keeping the pressure on the opposition. I think that’s the game plan we need.

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"History shows that just playing straightforward rugby doesn’t serve us well in a World Cup. We need to bring something special to the table.

"They’ve now got to take their opportunities, go back to their provinces and try and keep that spirit going, and in their three warm-up games they have to play that brand of rugby."

Ireland’s impressive victory over the English helped make up for what had been an otherwise disappointing Six Nations with uninspiring wins over Italy and Scotland coupled with narrow defeats to France and Wales.

But Byrne insists he is glad expectations have been lessened somewhat ahead of the World Cup as Ireland tend to succeed when there is less pressure on them to do so.

"It hasn’t been a great Six Nations for Ireland but (against England ) they got the performance they were searching for throughout the whole competition," added the 2005 Test Lion.

"We’ve had our own problems with knocking on balls, easy turnovers, discipline was a major problem and it was a poor performance against Wales, but at least we got back on track.

"We didn’t perform for most of the Six Nations but in the last game they showed that it is in them, that they can do it and they can play this brand of rugby.

"In a World Cup year, it’s important to finish off the Six Nations on a good point so we’re all delighted.

"We had two loses with one score between them each time – it could have been a different story completely. But to be honest, I’m quite happy with the way this Six Nations worked out.

"I think a low-key entry into this World Cup will do us the world of good, rather than the last World Cup when it was over hyped."

As for England, Byrne believes they will learn a great deal from the pain of defeat and that they have no need to be despondent.

However, Byrne says England are still missing a vital ingredient in their own forward planning, an ingredient that has served them so well in the past.

"The one thing that came across was that England are missing leadership. They have a very young side, they’re playing well, but they don’t have a talisman.

"Most great English sides are built upon the likes of [Lawrence] Dallaglio and [Martin] Johnson. There’s normally someone one there to steady the ship.

"When Ireland went at them, England didn’t respond how you would expect a team that were going for the Grand Slam to respond.

"It doesn’t take anything away from England, they still got the medals and they still won the Championship. They have achieved a fantastic amount in the last eight or nine months.

"It will probably serve them well. They finished top of the Championship and that’s still a great achievement. It was a disappointing loss but it’s still a learning curve.

"Ireland weren’t going to be beaten on the day, they were just having one of those days. Things were just working out right."

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