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Italy will present a different challenge for Jack Crowley

February 10th, 2024 1:30 PM

By Sean Holland

Jack Crowley has impressed in his first two Six Nations starts.

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JACK Crowley passed his first test as Ireland’s successor to the legendary Johnny Sexton – and there’s more to come from the Innishannon man.

The former Bandon RFC star kicked 13 points in Ireland’s 38-17 hammering of France in their opening 2024 Six Nations clash last Friday night.

The performance had its good and bad moments but overall it was an extremely encouraging day's work from Crowley, who will look to build on it when Ireland host Italy this Sunday afternoon in the Aviva Stadium (3pm).

Former Cork Con and Munster fly half Jonny Holland was also impressed by Crowley, and feels he has the potential to develop into Ireland’s main man for years to come. 

‘I thought it was a very good performance,’ Holland told The Southern Star.

‘I wouldn't even say it was rough around the edges but there's even scope for improvement. Because of the position he’s in there’s always going to be a small bit of criticism around Jack because of who he's replacing and maybe who other people want to replace Johnny Sexton as well.

‘The fact that Jack went in there and played his own game with his own standards and knowledge of his own capabilities meant that he made one or two mistakes. Saying that I would much prefer a fella to make mistakes like that. The potential that he has with the mistakes that he's made while playing the game that he played, it’s much more exciting than someone playing it safe and possibly just getting over the line, but not in the same fashion,’ explained the former Munster man. 

Ireland's Jack Crowley celebrates the win against France. (Photo: INPHO/Ben Brady)

 

Having played in that position before, Holland feels Crowley will face a different challenge against the Italians on Sunday. 

‘You have to look at the French line speed and say that they went a bit more tactically different. The Italians are going to get into his face and Jack will get caught up in that battle, sometimes at the tackle line,’ Holland predicted. 

‘He'll want to take the punishment to put people through the gaps like he did last week, but the punishment will come a lot quicker against Italy, who are passionate and will have to be that way to stay in the game, whereas the French have that quality above Italy to not push up as much. They'll try and play the game as well, but Italy will have to go and disrupt them. 

‘Now, if you're analysing Jack, you go and force him into a bit of a contest at the tackle line because he'll keep taking you on and he'll keep taking the punishment. But how much can he take? And how much will the Italians give him? That's the question they'll be looking to get answered. If you're his coach, you'll be just making sure you encourage him to keep playing his game because he's been unreal at it, but to also allow people around you to take the punishment and just guide them around a little bit as well,’ Holland explained. 

‘To be honest though, he's been quite good at that. If you're trying to pre-empt that, I'd be going to fill his boots anyway, keeping the confidence alive, and then maybe just a bit of reality. It takes a game like this to question your own game management. So just keep plugging the same thing, keep sticking to the same process that I'd imagine that they have but a small bit of forewarning that it won't always go your way’.

Coming from Cork Con and having been involved in the Munster set-up, Holland knows Crowley is made of strong stuff mentally. 

‘Knowing Jack, the reason he's so strong in his position is because he's not even thinking of the things he did well. He's thinking “I missed the kick from 40 metres in front of the posts and I kicked the ball dead inside the 22”. That's where his focus is going to go,’ Holland said. 

‘That's why he went to France and dominated because he's just looking to improve. Without being anyway cocky, he's just confident in his ability. He's going to look to improve on the things that he did wrong last week and how he knows he can be better if he goes to France again, as opposed to thinking that's why he didn't play it safe. If he was playing it safe, he'd be thinking, “right, that's done, phew”. I don't feel he's thinking that. He's going to try and drive on and fix the mistakes that he's made no matter where and when they were.’

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