Wednesday 13 December 2017

Schmidt demands more despite winning start

Joe Schmidt during Ireland’s game with Samoa yesterday.
Joe Schmidt during Ireland’s game with Samoa yesterday.
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Joe Schmidt's reign as Ireland coach got off to a positive start before a crowd of 39,108 at Lansdowne Road yesterday with a 40-9 win over Samoa.

Ireland had feared this would be a bruising contest and close enough at the finish, yet it was a 5-0 try count in their favour with the visitors struggling to keep men upright by the end.

Schmidt wasn't overly impressed, however, after a game Ireland started very loosely and improved in as they went on.

"I'd say it was untidy, earnest... there was some good endeavour, but not the accuracy we were looking for," said Schmidt. "The Samoans were short a few players. We need a reality check on Monday and we have a real step up to take next week (against Australia).

"Our ball security wasn't great and we turned over six balls in the first half from poor handling," added Schmidt. "We have to be a lot better than that. You can't offer full-strength sides opportunities like that and with the Wallabies coming up that's a risk we can't afford to take.

"I know from talking to Samoan lads today they were missing a couple of players and we brought a couple off the bench as well and we were quite at full strength.

"I thought the drive for the first try was top-drawer and a couple of the other tries... the one from the scrum and Dave Kearney managed to finish it, his first try for Ireland. That will be a special moment for him."

Flanker Chris Henry was Ireland's only injury replacement on an evening when Schmidt cleared the bench long before the finish, which meant some time on the field for his captain Paul O'Connell.

It was a spectacular day for the debutants – loosehead Jack McGrath and replacement Dave Kearney. The latter scored two tries, while McGrath was named man of the match as part of a pack that took Samoa apart at the scrum. "Yeah I'm absolutely delighted," McGrath said afterwards. "We set out to get the win and I thought the team prepared very well and we fought it out there. Tough side, we just had to grind them down and I think our subs did really well when they came on.

BRENDAN FANNING, NEIL FRANCIS, JIM GLENNON, PAGE 7

"It was definitely important to get it right, to push forward, and again this is the first of three massive games for us as a group and we are absolutely delighted."

This morning, the focus will shift to Australia, who arrive in Dublin today ahead of Saturday's sold-out Test in Lansdowne Road. This will be the Wallabies' 13th match of the season, but their demolition of Italy in Turin yesterday was only their fourth win in that spell.

After losing to England last weekend, the record 50-20 win came at just the right time for Australia.

As with their final games in the Rugby Championship, against Argentina in Rosario and New Zealand in Dunedin, they looked a different team when the game broke up in the second half and moved away from the set-piece, where again they struggled at the scrum.

Ireland, however, will be hoping to continue next Saturday evening where they left off yesterday.

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