Six Nations 2021: Ireland 'seem to be lacking direction' says ex-wing Tommy Bowe

Sexton's late penalty secured a 27-24 win for Ireland over Scotland at Murrayfield
Sexton's late penalty secured a 27-24 win for Ireland over Scotland at Murrayfield

Former wing Tommy Bowe believes Ireland are lacking direction after Sunday's near-collapse against Scotland.

Having opened up a 24-10 lead, Ireland needed a late Johnny Sexton penalty to secure a 27-24 win at Murrayfield following a surge from Scotland.

Ireland are second in the table but have no chance of winning the championship ahead of Saturday's final game with England in Dublin.

"We had Scotland exactly where we wanted them," said Bowe.

"It's something we've seen so many times throughout this competition, we just seem to switch off and we're not able to put teams to the sword."

The former Ulster and Ospreys wing added: "A lot of the players have spoken about how they're enjoying the Ireland camp and that there's a great atmosphere around it.

"There is no doubt, in every match we've seen, there is no lack of effort, they are putting their bodies on the line for the coaches.

"So that comes down to what they have been coached. What is the gameplan going into this because there is no lack of effort, but there seems to be a lack of direction."

Ireland put themselves into a commanding position at Murrayfield, with Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne tries helping to establish a 14-point lead with 55 minutes gone.

However, an excellent try by Huw Jones gave the Scots hope before Hamish Watson crossed to bring the game level with five minutes remaining, only for Sexton's penalty to secure a nervy Ireland win.

"We're conceding a lot of simple tries," added Bowe, speaking to Radio Ulster's Sportsound Extra Time.

"Scotland had two lineouts but we still conceded three tries, and that's a huge worry for Ireland where in the past the defence has been such a strength.

"With Joe Schmidt, he was very authoritarian, he did set out a very clear gameplan. It may not have been the cosiest to be around, but when you're playing international rugby and the Six Nations, it's not a cosy position to be in.

"I know Andy Farrell is trying to find that balance at the minute. You see someone like Paul O'Connell who has come in over the last few months and the impact he has had. Ireland's lineout has been just incredible, what a turnaround it's been since the autumn, both in attack and defence.

Bowe has backed Stockdale to start against England following his return to form for Ulster in recent weeks
Bowe has backed Stockdale to start against England following his return to form for Ulster in recent weeks

"The impact that one coach can have in those two key areas, that really raises the question about Ireland's attack.

"Six of the backline are Leinster and when they're wearing that Leinster jersey, they look unstoppable, like magicians.

"All of a sudden they put the green jersey on, they were bumping into each other, their passing accuracy wasn't at the same level. It didn't look like they were singing off the same hymn sheet."

Bowe 'would not be surprised' to see Stockdale start England game

There is increased pressure on Ireland coach Andy Farrell to take James Lowe out of the starting XV after the Leinster wing's error-strewn performance against Scotland.

Bowe feels Lowe was "culpable" for two of Scotland's tries and says he would not be surprised to see Jacob Stockdale take his place for the visit of England to the Aviva Stadium.

Stockdale has looked sharp for Ulster in recent weeks since returning from a two-month injury layoff, creating Alby Mathewson's try with a powerful run in the province's Pro14 win over Dragons on Saturday.

"There's no doubt that Lowe's defensive frailties have really been highlighted," said Bowe.

"I've watched Lowe play for Leinster over the past couple of seasons at Pro14 and European level, and he is phenomenal, such a threat with ball in hand. We haven't seen him get that opportunity, with ball in hand and taking on defenders.

"I think he's been given a few opportunities and if he didn't have someone waiting in the wings to get in there, like Jacob Stockdale, who is coming back into form after injury, he might get another opportunity.

"But I would not be surprised to see Stockdale brought in for the England game."

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