Saturday 18 November 2017

Late arrival is no excuse, says Schmidt

Rory Best. Photo: Getty Images
Rory Best. Photo: Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland's team bus proved to be as slow as some of their players for the opening half-hour yesterday but Joe Schmidt refused to blame his side's late arrival to Murrayfield for the 30-minute horror show when they fell 21-5 behind.

"We arrived around 15 minutes late to the stadium and we were late to most things in that first-half," lamented Schmidt, even though his side were staying a mere 20 minutes away from the ground.

"We were on time leaving the hotel, it is not an excuse for being late in the match. We just took our time getting here. We were sluggish. We had some good field position and didn't convert. We were sluggish in closing their space down and we missed a few tackles.

"It's far from ideal in terms of the championship. It's a tough championship. We have a bonus point but we need to go to Italy and get five or six points from these two games and then get momentum for the rest of the championship.

"We knew they were dangerous but we fed their self-belief and they got more encouragement because they knew they could play against us. We just have to start better. When you deliver consistently in the past, you can't have an expectation that it will necessarily happen all the time for you."

Schmidt refused to rule the injury-prone out-half Jonathan Sexton out of next week's trip to Rome and admitted that Paddy Jackson, like the rest of the team, performed better when on the front-foot in defence and attack.

"I'm not sure at this stage. Johnny wasn't far away and he could still come into the picture. This is different from what Paddy has done in the past, it was tough when you're not winning collisions," he said.

"We were too slow getting the ball to [Jackson], there were a lot of bodies on the floor, Conor Murray was reaching over people and it was difficult for him and he always felt crowded.

"You make your own luck. When we made line-breaks in the second half, we didn't get the separation we needed. Rob Kearney put a foot in touch, they got to the ball after Jamie Heaslip broke clear, the same with Sean O'Brien. They are three crucial line-breaks and that could have given us breathing space. At 22-21, we knew the game was far from over.

"We needed another score because we knew they could come. We had those clutch moments."

Captain Rory Best echoed his coach's frustrations.

"Almost everything we talked about doing, we didn't do. We were narrow in defence, we didn't get front-foot ball," he said. "The only good thing we recognised at half-time was that we knew we could start doing that. It was just difficult to start like that and have Finn Russell with the space to throw 20 or 30-yard passes.

"We prepared well during the week and although we were late, everyone had these scenarios and you have to rely on your preparation."

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