Sunday 22 September 2019

'We looked flat, slow and were inaccurate' - Joe Schmidt doesn't hold back on 'unacceptable' England loss

Head coach Joe Schmidt during an Ireland Rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Kildare. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Head coach Joe Schmidt during an Ireland Rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Kildare. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Des Berry

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said that the heavy defeat to England in last weekend's World Cup warm-up match was 'unacceptable' as he pinpointed so issues with the display.

Ireland were thrashed by Eddie Jones' side at Twickenham in a worrying loss, with a number of key men failing to fire.

After similarly chastening defeats to England and Wales in the Six Nations, concerns are now growing over Ireland's World Cup prospects.

In a rare appearance at Ireland’s Tuesday media briefing out in Carton House, Schmidt gave a blunt assessment of his team's latest match.

"It's an unacceptable result for us," he offered up.

"It was a performance beneath where we'd like to be. It's a performance beneath where we need to be.

"The whole group are very, very conscious that we have a short period of time to make sure we accelerate what is part of our progression.

"We did try and have a very rigorous pre-season and the pre-season really ran up until the Portugal camp.

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"We tried to taper a little bit towards the end of the week but, really, we looked flat, we looked slow.

"We were inaccurate and didn't adjust when we could see where we were getting trouble."

Then, came the warning to all players involved on Saturday and for those who will be on the outside looking in.

"We are still in, what we would determine as a building phase, a clarification phase for selection.

"Once this weekend is over, effectively selections are done.

"Sunday will be a day of sitting down and making sure we can get the selection as well-balanced as we can make it to get the right people to springboard into that final game against Wales and then onto the World Cup."

However, Schmidt has come too far for too long to turn back now with the competition with sight.

"To throw everything out would be a mistake.

"We've got a count of 37 missed tackles. For us, to be below 80% in a tackle count when we're looking for 90%-plus, we know we can't afford to offer a team the size, the skill and experience of England that amount of latitude.

"And we gave them way too much latitude."

The coach was thrown a bone about the proximity of heavy training in Portugal to a full-on international.

"Nothing mitigates losing the way we did," he replied.

"We're not going to make excuses for that because we know where we are in our progression and we've tried to periodise our lead-in to the World Cup.

"I do think at this time of the cycle every four years, you get some pretty, I wouldn't say bizarre results, but you get some imbalanced results.

"I'm determined to stay realistic in comparison to our opponents," he continued.

The likely scenario of dealing with Wales B in Cardiff and Grand Slam Wales in Dublin does give Ireland a superb two-step programme to work on.

"Where we have to be this weekend is a different story and where we have to be the weekend after is another different story."

On a more positive note, Schmidt gave some encouraging injury updates on Cian Healy and Conor Murray.

"Cian was involved in the first game and the second game, and he probably wasn’t on the radar for this game anyway," he stated.

"We are probably just going to stick with that plan anyway.

"He is unlikely to play this Saturday and will play the Saturday after.

"I would be gobsmacked if he is not available for that because this weekend is something that we could look at with Cian."

It looks like Murray will sit the next one out, despite looking in need of game time. 

"Our initial plan for Conor was to only play two games before we go," said Schmidt.

"Last weekend and, potentially, the final game of the lead-in. We will make a decision on that.

"He passed his HIA 1 at the time, he passed his HIA 2 post-match and, the following day, he passed his HIA 3, which means according to the protocols there was no concussion.

"He did cop an elbow to the side of the face as he came across and dropped into the tackle, just as Jonny May’s elbow came up.

"Those sorts of things happen. He bounced up and was fine and trained fine today."

Schmidt was reluctant to concede Jonathan Sexton had suffered a second injury on top of his thumb problem. 

"He is very keen to be involved this weekend, but we are not going to be silly about that.

"If we don’t think he is 100 per cent and ready then he won’t be involved this weekend.

"No, he doesn’t have a leg injury per se, He’s got a bit of stiffness and soreness.

"If we wanted to pick him this weekend, we could pick him. If you had seen him out there and how hard he was running, it’s a progression for him."

Keith Earls is chomping at the bit to get going.

Unfortunately, the veteran wing is suffering from a touch of "tendonitis."

"It is really frustrating for him. It’s just niggling away more than anything else.

"We have tried to get any inflammation out of that by not pushing him. He’s a player who we know plays really well fresh. It is about playing the long game with Keith and making sure that he is 100 per cent ready to go.

"I know that he will be ready for the weekend after this one. I doubt whether he will be involved this weekend."

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