Joe Schmidt keeps faith during 'transition period'
Joe Schmidt has branded Ireland a team in transition and pleaded with fans "don't lose faith" after 21-10 defeat to England ended their RBS 6 Nations title defence.
Ireland's failure to register a win in the Six Nations' opening three matches represents their worst return at this stage of the championship since the 1998 whitewashing.
The two-time champions have now relinquished their title, with Anthony Watson and Mike Brown's tries ensuring England's victory, following the 16-16 draw with Wales and 10-9 loss in France.
Head coach Schmidt accepted Ireland are now in a state of flux, with more than 10 players out injured, former captain Paul O'Connell retired and a crop of promising youngsters yet to come of Test match age.
"While we've got guys who are coming in and doing a good job, there's a little bit of a transition period," said Schmidt, even though the Ireland side that took the Twickenham field had an average age of 28.
"We're building past that hopefully.
"But don't lose faith that we won't keep building and hopefully that will be sufficient to keep people enthusiastic about what we do in the next two games.
"I'm positive by nature, I think we tried to play positively with the enterprise we showed and we'll keep trying to do that.
"I am excited about the young guys who are coming in. I'm sure they can well step up to this level, and that's got to be positive going forward."
Schmidt admitted Ireland can now ill afford to finish the Six Nations with anything other than wins against Italy and Scotland in Dublin.
The Ireland boss lamented Robbie Henshaw losing the ball in attempting to score, while insisting a potential score for Josh van der Flier was incorrectly chalked off.
"You're a whisker away if the ball slips out of your grasp, and you're a whisker away when you don't quite get a decision after going over the line," said Schmidt.
"To be honest it's really tough at the moment for players who take so much pride to not quite get the result.
"But I honestly don't feel we're a million miles away.
"We need to get a result and we need to build toward that over the next two weeks.
"We saw that angle and we thought it was a try for Josh (van der Flier), and I think the players thought it was a try.
"You lose a game because a ball slips out of a player's hand or there seems to be a dark patch on a TV screen for a TMO decision.
"We can't buy a trick at the moment. It's frustrating."
Schmidt also hinted he feels that England full-back Mike Brown could face a citing for kicking Conor Murray in the face when trying to boot the ball clear from a ruck.
Murray required stitches around his eye, but referee Romain Poite eventaully opted not to award a yellow card for the clash.
Schmidt however expects the Harlequins star to be under the scrutiny of the citing officers in due course.
"They have people who look at those things and I have never, ever tried to influence that," said Schmidt.
"They made a decision on the field, but it's something they'll probably look back at because Conor's obviously got stitches right next to his eye.
"That strategy is fraught with risk, particularly with players in close proximity, but I know that Mike Brown wouldn't have done it on purpose, he's trying to connect with the ball.
"But as I say it's something we don't influence, that's for other people to determine whether he's culpable for being reckless or whatever."