The difference two weeks makes. Ireland saw off Wales in a physical encounter today that will see Joe Schmidt’s side go into the Rugby World Cup as the top-ranked side in the world.
Below are the player rankings for a historic day after Ireland became the World Number One for the first time in their history.
15. Rob Kearney: 8
The fullback was in fine form for Ireland today, preventing a try in the opening minutes and scoring one of his own. Was good as always in the air and offered plenty in attack.
14. Jordan Larmour: 7
The youngster didn’t exactly set the world alight but he was solid overall. Made a few nice runs and handled Josh Adams well in defence.
13. Robbie Henshaw: 8
Did all that was asked of him. Was good in attack making plenty of hard runs and made a brilliant try-saving tackle on Dan Biggar after the Welshman broke away from an intercept.
12. Bundee Aki: 7
Wasn’t quite as good as he was in Cardiff last week but the blocky centre put in another good shift against Wales. The Connacht man is in fine form ahead of the World Cup.
11. Keith Earls: 6
A little bit quiet but not bad for a man just returning from injury. The Munster man is expected to start against Scotland in a couple of weeks time and this game would have done him the world of good.
10. Johnny Sexton: 7
The 2018 World Rugby player of the year was a bit rusty on his return but ended the game strongly. Perhaps more importantly, Sexton got through the game with no injury worries.
9. Conor Murray: 7
Put in a good shift, which was well-needed after Ireland’s collapse against England only two weeks ago. Not yet at his best but should be confident enough going to Japan.
8. Jack Conan: 6
Maybe didn’t have as much of an impact as he would have liked in attack put did plenty in defense against a physical Welsh pack. Joe Schmidt has some big decisions to make in the back row.
7. Josh van der Flier: 7
Another man who was much-improved two weeks on from an anonymous performance against England. The Leinster man looks to have nailed down his place as Ireland’s starting openside-flanker.
6. CJ Stander: 6
Looked comfortable on the blindside and good push O’Mahony out in the race for the number six jersey should Conan stay at Number. 8. Not yet up to his explosive standards of old but a fine performance nonetheless.
5. Jean Kleyn: 6
Another physical performance from the towering South-African born lock. His selection has been heavily-criticised but Kleyn may have silenced a few doubters after a solid outing.
4. James Ryan: 9
What else is there to say about James Ryan? Another man-of-the-match performance from the Leinster lock and a try as well after being denied earlier in the game.
3. Tadhg Furlong: 8
Brought everything we’ve come to expect from the Wexford man. The scrum held up well and he muscled over for a try of his own to give Ireland breathing space in the last 20 minutes.
2. Rory Best: 7
An emotional day for the Ireland captain as he made his last home appearance in green. There were still some minor lineout problems but Best should be happy with how he played.
1. Cian Healy: 7
Suffered a leg injury against England put he slotted right back into the starting lineup and played well. The 31-year-old is peaking at just the right time.
Schmidt made a number of changes a little earlier than he usually would but it made no negative effect as the subs picked up where the starters left off. The likes of Jack Carty and Luke McGrath kept things ticking over in defence where Rhys Ruddock and Iain Henderson bolstered the pack.
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