Joe Schmidt laments ‘dishevelled’ Ireland after England rout

Irish coach says his side were underdone as they fell to a record defeat at Twickenham

A downbeat Joe Schmidt reflected on Ireland's record defeat both to England and of his tenure, and admitted there were a litany of disappointing factors in his side's "dishevelled" performance, beginning with a lineout which lost six of its own 15 throws.

“There’s probably a litany of them, to be honest. We didn’t get our set-piece going, we didn’t really scavange as well as we would have liked to. We fell off 34 tackles, 21 of them in the first half.

“I thought there was a little bit of positive in the first quarter. It was tight in that first quarter. Obviously when we went to 10-8, there was a bit of promise there. But it’s very disappointing.

“That try just before half-time, when Conor (Murray) was down and they worked the overlap against 14 men - we’ve got to be able to defend with 14 men. I certainly would never use that as an excuse, but they did well there. Just to go into the shed at half-time at 22-10, it’s a big difference to 15-10 because you’re two scores away then.


“I think we were underdone, we were a bit heavy-legged,” Schmidt admitted.

“There doesn’t have to be too much a margin between two teams, one v one, for one to be a bit sluggish and one to be on top of your game. Certainly for some of their guys, they’ve had two games, this is their third game, and they looked sharper than we were.”

Speaking on pitchside, the Irish head coach was not inclined to accept the rationale that this performance was not especially problematic given the squad is preparing for the altogether more important World Cup opener against Scotland four weeks hence.

“Yeah, it is a serious problem. You’ve got to make sure that you can rebound from this and get a number of the different elements in the game back in order. There were so many aspects that we didn’t get right today that we look dishevelled out there to be honest.

“I know we had to make a number of changes and hopefully the guys who came off are okay. There are a number of things we’re going to have to look at over the next 48 hours and try to build forward from.”

Schmidt confirmed that an x-ray on Cian Healy’s left ankle revealed no structural damage and was hopeful the prop would recover. He also said there had been a breakdown in communication after Murray passed his HIA as Schmidt did not want the scrumhalf to return to play before removing him at half time.

Looking ahead to the upcoming games away and at home to Wales, Schmidt said: “I know we can get better than that, I know we have to. I think the players will take responsibility for making sure that they do everything they can to turn it around next week and then build forward the week after that because what really matters is in four weeks’ time.

“We’ve got to go out and be as competitive and as accurate as we can be against Scotland. They had a 30-point margin against them last week and they turned around to win today,” Schmidt said of Scotland’s win over France.

“So it’s a little bit what happens at this time of the year in the lead-up to a World Cup, you do get some disproportionate scores but we still have to accept that we were not nearly good enough today. We’ve got to be a lot better next time around.”

Captain Rory Best accepted that the Ireland lineout misfired badly and accepted his own role in that.

“Look, I think it’s incredibly frustrating whenever your set-piece doesn’t go the way you planned but there’s a big difference between training and you try to put as much pressure as you can in training and then you come up against a lineout defence that is one of the best in the world.

“We won the first one and it went well and then they competed on the second, and I think we just got within ourselves a little bit and everyone got a little bit nervous and they just kept coming after us there.

“There’s no doubt that if affected our game and we’ve got to look at why it affected our game and we’ve got to look at how we can be better. I think we can increase the pace at how we came in. They probably gave us a lesson into whenever you’re not quite ready just hold off and hit the line and go. Whereas we were a bit labored coming in.

“We gave them a few pictures to look at and move around and read, and a combination of a couple of throws not right, a couple of calls, a couple of movements a bit slow.”

No less than lineout coach Simon Easterby, defence coach Andy Farrell will have plenty to mull over and rectify after Ireland missed 34 tackles in conceding eight tries, including two off first-phase which were the result of Manu Tuilagi's decoy run straightening the Irish defence before it was then beaten on the left edge and the outside centre channel.

“Certainly the first one was really an error on the inside and then we were playing catch up out wide when they scored the first try in the right-hand corner,” said Schmidt.

“And then the second one, we undid ourselves really. We got up and in. We were probably trying to force something to happen. When you’re not getting a stream of possession yourself you start going after opportunities to upset theirs to try to crate an opportunity and sometimes when you try hard, and you’re chasing the game, you open yourself up.

Especially when their timing and their skill is good. They undid with one through the middle from a very basic play from Owen going in behind 13 and Cokasinga getting the space through the middle.

“So, there’s some pretty big frustration there. We got one back against them as well which isn’t too bad conceding the possession that we didn’t have when we got them on the outside.

“We’d be really disappointed with the lack of connection in offering up those two tries. The first one was really well worked by them but, as I said, our defence coming out off the scrum wasn’t as good as it needs to be and once that happens you’re in a tough position.”

Of Ross Byrne’s full debut, Schmidt admitted: “It was tough for Ross. I mean you want to be able to get some set-piece ball on the front foot and Ross didn’t get that opportunity. Often for a 10 that’s when you start to get a little bit of confidence in the game.

“He had a tough day defensively as well. He had some big men coming down his channel. He had a couple of really good tackles and he struggled a couple of times as well. He wanted to be able to run the game and boss the game but if you don’t have the ball it’s very hard to boss the game especially when you don’t have the ball on the front foot. That was a real frustration.”

When asked if this performance made selection next week easier, Schmidt also said on Sky: “When there’s a performance like that, one of the things is you’re such an integral part of an inter-dependent group it’s very hard for someone to suddenly take the mantle on.

“When there is, I suppose, a malaise about the team and it’s really disappointing to say that, but it’s very hard to pick out one person and vilify them when there’s a number of players who are either side of them and they’re relying on them to do their jobs, then when that doesn’t happen it does certainly, very quickly have a concertina effect.”

Looking ahead to next week’s meeting with Wales in front of a capacity Principality Stadium for Warren Gatland’s last match in Cardiff as Welsh coach, Schmidt said: “We gave a couple of guys and opportunity today. Guys who haven’t had a lot of time with us and we’ll do the same next week.

“I think one of the things for us is that we’ve got a couple of guys who will come in and bring a bit of energy next week and we’re looking forward to that. It will keep a bit of pressure on some of the guys who didn’t go as well as they would have liked today.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times