WATCH: Luke Fitzgerald explains how a pivotal moment in Scotland defeat could have been avoided
Published 04/02/2017 | 19:07
Former Ireland star Luke Fitzgerald believes Ireland must target a bonus point win over Italy in Rome next week to keep their Six Nations championship hopes alive.
Ireland earned a losing bonus point in today's 27-22 defeat to the Scots, which means that their Grand Slam ambitions lie in tatters after just one game.
Ireland found themselves 21-5 down inside the first half-hour in Edinburgh, only to battle back and take a 22-21 lead in the second-half.
Paddy Jackson's converted try pushed Schmidt's men into an unlikely ascendancy, only for Greig Laidlaw to slot two penalties and seal the hosts' victory.
The real damage was done in the opening quarter when Ireland's defence was ripped to shreds by the Scottish backline.
Fitzgerald saw comparisons between today's defeat and the first half capitulation against Argentina in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
He was joined by Irish Independent rugby writers for a special episode of The Left Wing, in conjunction with Aer Lingus, from Murrayfield.
"It did remind me of that first half against Argentina," he said.
"Some of the decision-making, especially when it's a midfield ruck. It's what every team wants to get in phase play. They want to get to the middle of the pitch because then all your big guys in the middle of the pitch have decisions to make.
"If you make the wrong one then you often end up numbers up in attack in those situations and I thought that's what happened.
"I think they'll be really disappointed. Especially the second Hogg try. I probably would have been trying to dummy and and come back in to hit him. I think you have to try and make try and make that last pass at least.
"There will be a couple of things they'll be disappointed with.
"From general play, things they can fix straight away for next week. I would say the exiting. They would be very disappointed with that, traditionally a strong area for the team.
"We didn't hang on to the lead very well and that was quite surprising because i thought we looked like the better team in the second half but you just can't give an international team that kind of head start."
For Fitzgerald, only a winning bonus point will do net week.
"It's not all doom and gloom. We have a bonus point to take from it but I do think we're a better team than them and they'll be disappointed not to get the win," he added.
"They'll get the exiting right next week. I'm sure of that. Hopefully the conditions will be good and we'll be able to get some running rugby and see some of the attacking flair that we definitely do have.
"I expect them to turn it around quickly.
"The bonus point system works two ways. We got something out of today whereas in the past we would have been coming out of here empty-handed.
"I think they do have to go for that bonus point next week.
"I think Italy will get progressively weaker in the competition. I just think they have a skinnier squad than all the other teams in the competition.
"We need to make sure that we're nailed on and we're really accurate next week."
Fitzgerald would not rush Johny Sexton back into action in Rome and backed Paddy Jackson to orchestrate a five-point win.
"I think Paddy did really well today and he took his try well.
"I don't think we created enough opportunities for him to showcase his abilities but I thought he got to show a bit at the end.
"Paddy's established and he's not something we have to worry about.
"I think we do lose a little bit with Johnny being out. He's still our number one guy.
"Hopefully we might get him back but I think they might hold him back and that's probably the wise move in terms of the championship.
"We still should have won that today (without him) even though we had such an awful start."
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