Thursday 21 November 2019

Joe Schmidt: Ireland need improvement to beat France

Keith Earls scored a try as Ireland beat Italy 16-9 at the Olympic Stadium.
Keith Earls scored a try as Ireland beat Italy 16-9 at the Olympic Stadium.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has warned his players they will need to up their game if they want to overcome France in next Sunday's Pool D decider.

Schmidt's side booked their place in the World Cup quarter-finals with a 16-9 win over Italy at the Olympic Stadium but a stodgy performance will have given the French encouragement ahead of the showdown in Cardiff.

The winners will finish top of the group and avoid the likely scenario of facing reigning champions New Zealand in the last eight.

"The French media have high expectations and so do the team," Schmidt said.

"It's going to be incredibly hard for us to beat them. They are armed with more weaponry than what we saw today.

"It will be very difficult. We have to be more accurate than we were today.

"Physically they have players who are very, very powerful and that will make things difficult for us as well.

"I've watched their games and I'll be doing a lot of analysis over the next 24 to 48 hours.

"We'll come up with a plan and hopefully we can be more accurate in putting that in place than we were today."

Ireland have enjoyed an excellent recent record against Les Bleus, winning two and drawing two of the last four meetings.

"It's a timely reminder of where we need to be," Ireland captain Paul O'Connell said.

"France are an incredible side with incredible talent. They have size, physicality, skill and they play with a lot of passion as well.

"In recent years we've done well, we've had to produce massive performances to make those games tight. It's a mountain of a challenge."

Ireland were always in front against the Italians but struggled to dominate their opponents, who now cannot reach the knock-out stages but will take heart from a spirited display.

Keith Earls ran in his eighth World Cup try in the first half to become Ireland's top try-scorer in the history of the tournament, while Johnny Sexton kicked 11 points during the contest.

The result could have been very different, however, were it not for Peter O'Mahony's try-saving tackle in the second half, which saw the Irish forward drag Italy's Josh Furno into touch just as he touched down in the corner.

"I said last week I'd take a one-point win - I'd rather not though, even a one-score game is tough on the heart," Schmidt said.

"Sometimes it's not your day and in the context of that, we are delighted to have got the result and qualified for the quarter-finals."

Italy were spurred on by an impressive display from captain Sergio Parisse, who had to have his leg drained to be fit after missing the opening two games with a calf haematoma.

"The entire world expected Ireland to roll us over and win by 50 points," Parisse said.

"Today the team responded really well in a positive way despite the defeat.

"We cannot and shouldn't be satisfied. If we had scored the try in the second half, when Josh went into touch, the result would have been different.

"We have to congratulate Ireland, they didn't take too many risks in the second half, they used a tactical and kicking game.

"They are one of the strongest teams in the world and without taking too many risks they brought home the victory."

Ireland enjoyed fervent backing in the Olympic Stadium from their travelling fans, and perhaps from some locals too following England's early exit from the tournament.

"We're available for selection for support," O'Connell joked.

"If you look at today we're going to need to all the extra help we can get."

PA Media

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