Thursday 29 September 2016

Schmidt happy with campaign as Ireland end on a high note

Published 20/03/2016 | 02:30

Keith Earls scores Ireland’s second try — capitalising on a mix up between Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour — during the Six Nations match against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photo: Richard Heathcote
Keith Earls scores Ireland’s second try — capitalising on a mix up between Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour — during the Six Nations match against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photo: Richard Heathcote

Ireland completed their Six Nations campaign yesterday with a 10-point win over Scotland to leave Joe Schmidt's side with a mid-table finish. On a day when England secured their first Grand Slam since 2003 with victory in Paris, Ireland picked up where they left off against Italy the previous week, running in four tries in a 35-25 win.

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was happy both with the win and with the fact that, over the course of the campaign, a new group of players have been blooded.

"There's five new caps - for those guys coming in, a couple of them were making Pro12 debuts this time last year: Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier have had very little professional experience, let alone a Test. It's been great to work with them. CJ (Stander) has made an impact straight away too. His carry today was incredibly combative. Add all that up along with Stu McCloskey, who is learning fast, to carry and make pass at width, and offload, and he's learned what it takes to defend at Test match level."

Schmidt said the win over Scotland "wasn't just wanted, it was needed".

He added: "That's three Six Nations we've gone through and we haven't lost at home. We take some pride in that.

"The players deserve a lot of credit because we had to work really hard to manage the first half as well as we did. Our ability to control possession, to work our way into space and find space, and make things attritional for our opponents - we did a pretty good job of that."

And man of the match Jamie Heaslip was delighted his team held out against a Scotland side who responded strongly in the second half.

"We always knew they were going to come back hard," he said. "They've shown that in recent games and their form over the past 18 months. We took our chance when we got down there and we're very happy with the win."

Scotland dug a hole for themselves in the first half when they were blown off the pitch by French referee Pascal Gauzerre, leaving them a steep climb with a man binned in each half.

"Yeah, it did," their captain Greig Laidlaw said when asked if their discipline had proven costly.

Ireland's next involvement will be in South Africa in June where they have a three Test series against the Springboks. And the squad should look a lot healthier by then. Long-term injury victims Peter O'Mahony and Iain Henderson are due back on the field before then, as are Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald and Chris Henry. Sean O'Brien, meanwhile, is expected back for Leinster in the next three weeks.

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