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Friday 20 October 2017

Sluggish start could cost Ireland the Six Nations title - Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt's Ireland began the Six Nations with defeat
Joe Schmidt's Ireland began the Six Nations with defeat

Joe Schmidt insists the "sluggish" start in Scotland that could blow Ireland's RBS 6 Nations championship hopes was not down to complacency.

Ireland were 15 minutes late arriving at Murrayfield on Saturday, then Schmidt admitted his side failed to turn up in the first-half in Edinburgh.

Stuart Hogg struck twice and centre Alex Dunbar coasted in from a lineout ruse as Ireland were caught cold, eventually losing out 27-22.

Head coach Schmidt branded Ireland's second-half fightback too little too late, admitting the defeat represents a huge dent to any title chances.

"We arrived about 15 minutes late to the stadium and we were late for most things all first-half," said Schmidt.

"We were sluggish, we got some really good field position in the first half and didn't convert. That was frustrating.

"They got too much room to move, we were sluggish to close that space down and missed a few tackles.

"We were on time leaving the hotel it just took a long time to get to the ground.

"Those things happen, it's not an excuse for being late for things in the first-half, it's probably a reflection of the way the start of the day went for us.

"Our recovery was 40 minutes too late but there were solutions that were demonstrated. But the key is we've got to start better.

"One of the things that's a danger is that when you consistently deliver something you tend to just have an expectation it's going to happen.

"We have tended to start well in recent Test matches, so for us not to start well, there was certainly a sluggishness of thought and movement in the first-half.

"I think the solutions are there but we're going to have to make sure we start better than that in Rome next week.

"The slow start definitely wasn't down to complacency.

"Sometimes you can have an expectation that things will unfold but when they don't you have to take account of that and make sure they unfold by getting done what you need to get done. And we didn't really.

"The start was a real problem today, and it is unusual.

"It's only happened a couple of times in the last few years, and we've paid dearly for it.

"We fought our way right back into the game but once you've done that you've got to be able to go on and win those moments there that we didn't quite win."

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.

Admitting the loss dents Ireland's title chances, Schmidt said: "It's obviously far from ideal, the defeat is pretty tough to take.

"But it was always potentially a reality coming here.

"We knew these guys had improved, Vern Cotter has done a great job with them.

"We fed their self-belief which was dangerous to do.

"They were more encouraged because they felt they could open up and play against us and they did it well.

"The things we talked about we then put into place in the second half and they didn't score another try.

"That's the major frustration that you can try to prepare as best you can but it's actually what you deliver that will determine a result.

"We have to take it on the chin and it looks like a very tough championship to win.

"But we know we're not out of it, we did pick up that bonus point.

"We've got to go to Italy now and make sure we get five or six points from these first two games, and get some momentum for the back-half of the championship."

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