Thursday 19 September 2019

Rúaidhrí O'Connor: Joe Schmidt is facing his greatest challenge to fix the issues England exposed at Twickenham

Manu Tuilagi of England celebrates with his team mates Joe Cokanasiga and Tom Curry after scoring his team's third try during the 2019 Quilter International between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on August 24, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Manu Tuilagi of England celebrates with his team mates Joe Cokanasiga and Tom Curry after scoring his team's third try during the 2019 Quilter International between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on August 24, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Rory Best spoke volumes for his team when he said he’s need to resort to profanity to describe his team’s performance.

A few choice words come to mind alright, but we’ll keep it clean.

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Ireland began to wilt in the Twickenham heat during the first-half, by the second-half they were in full-on meltdown.

This was a record defeat to England and the biggest loss of the Joe Schmidt era.

Coming less than a month out from the World Cup, the timing couldn't be worse.

The only survivor of the 2007 campaign, the captain knows how easily a poor warm-up performance can infect a World Cup.

They have two more games against Wales to get things back on track before they take on Scotland in Yokohama on September 22.

Schmidt now faces his biggest challenge to turn things around in time for the big kick-off.

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“It is a serious problem, we’ve got to make sure we rebound from this,” Schmidt told Sky Sports. “We looked dishevelled out there, there’s a number of factors we’ll have to look at."

The caveats are real, but they don't account for the scale of the collapse in performance.

The majority of Ireland players were playing their first game since May, they’d put down a big week of training in Portugal and were enduring 30 degree heat against a powerful, pacy English team.

But the manner of their collapse was alarming.

Let’s start with Best. Ireland’s lineout was once a pillar of strength, but the 37-year-old’s throw fell apart everything went from there.

For 20 minutes, this was a battle of equals but the defensive line-speed just stopped after the first quarter and England rolled over Ireland with consummate ease.

Cian Healy was a rare shining light, but he went off with an ankle injury. Conor Murray gave fans a scare, but he returned after a head injury assessment and should be OK once he’s gone through the protocols.

Healy joins Joey Carbery in the race to be fit for Japan and he’s just as important as the absent out-half.

Ross Byrne did well for 20 minutes, but when the team stopped winning collisions the out-half struggled to cope. Jack Carty did no better when introduced.

Like the game in February, the defeat to Wales in March and Munster and Leinster’s losses to Saracens in the Champions Cup, it was a story of dominant tackles and much, much more.

Rarely, if ever, have Ireland defended so badly and England made hay and racked up eight tries.

Cardiff awaits. Things can only get better, can't they?

The worst defeats of the Joe Schmidt era

August 24, 2019: England 57 Ireland 15, Twickenham (F)

October 18, 2015: Argentina 43 Ireland 20, Millennium Stadium (WC)

March 16, 2019: Wales 25 Ireland 7, Millennium Stadium (WC)

November 16, 2013: Ireland 15 Australia 31, Aviva (F)

March 10, 2017: Wales 22 Ireland 9, Millennium Stadium (6N)

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