Saturday 21 April 2018

'Unforgivable stuff' - Last week's poor start was not the most disappointing aspect of Ireland's play for Joe Schmidt

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt insists that his side haven’t missed the bus as they bid to re-route their championship challenge in Rome this weekend.

And, despite last week’s Murrayfield mishap, when the team coach arrived late to the ground, delaying the side’s warm-up, Schmidt insists his side still have both hands on the wheel in terms of their title destiny.

“It was a one-off anomaly,” said Schmidt, referring to last week’s delay, after he named two changes to his starting fifteen.

“We are focused on performance but it is good to focus on those distractions because you will have them in other tournaments and at other times. So it is good experience.

“It was incredibly disappointing the way we started, it wasn’t apathy, it was just anxiety with everything that happened. Players are routine based but they need to become adaptable.

“Scotland scored three tries in those first 25 minutes but none after that and that reflected what we are capable of but we are chasing things then.

“We are not playing catch-up. We won’t get carried away chasing things. If we keep improving, which I am confident we can, we can still have our destiny in our own hands.

“The biggest disappointment last weekend was not the start but the finish - and the finishing.

“We had nine line-breaks, opportunities from overlaps we created, balls into touch on the full, unforgivable stuff.”

Scrum-half Conor Murray is also confident that his side can plough through the log-jam of teams above them in the table and restart their engines.

“The distraction was a little different to what we were used to,” he said, again referring to the fractured warm-up.

“We’re angry and we don’t want that start to happen again. We want to put it right. We slipped up and we need a big performance to stay in the championship.

“It is frustrating, we could feel sorry for ourselves, there is a bit of anger but we shook ourselves down early in the week and we need to respond and start better unlike against Scotland.

“It’s not ideal but we have another challenge now and looking back won’t help us.”

Schmidt made two changes to his side, with Iain Henderson’s hamstring twinge allowing Donnacha Ryan to come into the second-row while Cian Healy is rotated in ahead of Jack McGrath.

Jonathan Sexton and Peter O’Mahony remain unfit but will be in contention when the championship resumes in a fortnight; Craig Gilroy edges Ulster team-mate Tommy Bowe from the bench.

“It was something we planned to do, rotate those two props,” explained Schmidt.

“One plays 50 minutes and 30 minutes or vice versa. They’re similar things but slightly different. They both get an opportunity to start.

“Donnacha is a pretty good lineout operator, he is a real technician and tactician in that area and he will add value there. He has a great work-rate and we will need those two  things.

“Iain Henderson had a slight hamstring twinge which ruled him out of the equation but potentially he is back for next weekend or the weekend after.

“Andrew Trimble was so close but as we have seen, we risk further problems if you push someone back too early. For us, Simon and Keith are keen to avail of another opportunity.

“We wanted to give Craig Gilroy a chance and Tommy Bowe was unlucky with an over-lap and his high tackle was unfortunate, and he nearly had a good run but it was just unfortunate.”

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