Defense coach Simon Easterby admits discipline is at the forefront of Ireland’s concerns after last year’s Six Nations campaign was derailed by a costly red card.
The Irish were on the back foot just 14 minutes into the 2021 Championship following the damaging dismissal of Peter O’Mahony in the 21-16 loss to eventual winners Wales in Cardiff.
Title aspirations evaporated with a narrow 15-13 loss to France a week later, but Andy Farrell’s in-form side have not been beaten since.
Ireland restart the tournament against the Welsh and Easterby says it’s essential the players stay in control and obey the law.
“Yeah, that’s crucial,” he said, ahead of Saturday’s sold-out game at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
“I think every team would see discipline as being high on the agenda in terms of getting it right yourself, forcing the opposition to give you position on the pitch or scoring chances. thanks to their indiscipline, so it’s definitely at the forefront of everyone’s mind..
“We have to work with the officials, the players have a responsibility to do things the legal way; the game is tough enough these days without guys having to do things outside of normal.
“Those mistakes and those unfortunate moments where a player gets the wrong tackle entry, or the wrong clean entry, or there’s a challenge in the air, players and coaches try as much as possible to educate and explain. try to mitigate and try to reduce the amount of chance these things will come back to bite you.
“It’s certainly at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
O’Mahony became the first Irish player to be sent off in a Six Nations match following a reckless blow to the shoulder to the head of Welsh prop Tomas Francis.
Despite their lead at the Principality Stadium, the Irish – who have won their last eight games – could not hold on for their famous triumph over adversity.
Easterby agrees that physical collisions are inevitable in rugby, but thinks ‘good habits’ can help limit harsh punishments.
“It’s about being really precise,” he said. “Good habits that you adopt in training, making sure that we work hard on our techniques, at the ruck in particular, the kick chase.
“There will always be clashes in rugby, it’s a contact sport and there are guys who move left, right and forward and there will be times when a player gets caught.
“Those things are unavoidable, but the harder we can work in training to mitigate those opportunities to go against us, the better off we will be when it comes to getting on the right side of the door with the referee.”