Thursday 29 June 2017

Schmidt: All's not lost if we can finish in top half

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt at the Principality Stadium in Cardif. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt at the Principality Stadium in Cardif. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The Six Nations began with an Ireland team seemingly comfortable in their place in the world's top four. It finishes with them desperately trying to convince themselves that a place in the tournament's top three is a job well done.

Ireland are clinging on to their place in the top four in the World Rugby rankings and if they remain there after next week's clash with England, they'll be top seeds at the next World Cup in 2019.

Whether they deserve to live in such esteemed company is becoming more questionable by the week.

A three-tries-to-nil defeat suggests that Ireland were clearly second-best against Wales on Friday, but the game was in the balance until Jamie Roberts' try three minutes from time.

Schmidt pointed to Wayne Barnes' correct decision to disallow Rory Best's try for a Robbie Henshaw offside as the pivotal moment and rejected the notions that his side are predictable in attack and regressing as the season goes on.

While he is disappointed, the coach wants to finish with a win.

"I really feel we were incredibly close and I know 22-9 does not look like that," he said. "But 15-9 with us going over the line, and us having a five-metre scrum, it is incredibly close. It is professional sport, international rugby; you are assessed on your result, not necessarily your performance.

"But I do think when people look back through that, they will see some really strong elements of performance, and that includes both sides of the ball.

"To bounce back is difficult but I know that this group of players are incredibly good to work with, incredibly resilient and I think they have demonstrated that before.

"They showed it during the game against Australia (in November) and I think they have a fantastic chance this coming week to demonstrate that from week to week and get something out of the Championship because, I just think there are so many really good teams involved and if we can finish in the top half, I don't think all is lost as a result.

"So we have to chase that result.

"It is a Test against England. I know we are capable of getting ourselves to that place, so it is incredibly disappointing we are not there.

"We will turn out and endeavour to do the very best we can to create opportunities to get something off the back of them. We know how tough that is going to be.

"I think England are getting stronger as the tournament goes on

"You cannot win a Six Nations with 15 players. And that is where England have really proved their worth."

An update on Conor Murray's fitness will be delivered today, but Tommy Bowe is almost certainly out of contention after suffering a suspected broken ankle during a luckless 40-second cameo at the end of the game.

Schmidt will assess the condition of his players today and tomorrow before considering whether to make changes to his team after the 22-9 defeat that ended Ireland's title hopes.

Irish Independent

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