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Reactions to poor performances have defined Joe Schmidt's time in charge of Ireland

Sunday’s unimpressive win over Italy was among the worst days under the Kiwi coach, but the four points are in the bag and destiny is in Ireland’s hands.
Oct 6th 2015, 3:27 PM 9,095 7

WITH TWO SIX Nations titles under the belt, it’s quite easy to whitewash the entire Joe Schmidt era as a period free of all worries and doubt, full non-stop joy and success.

It’s been good, just not 100% good.

Joe Schmidt Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Whether it’s because perfection is just impossible or because the intensity required to meet Schmidt’s standards at international level is too much to sustain, Ireland have experienced some severe dips during Schmidt’s reign.

All in all, the march to two successive Championships has brought a 76% winning record for Schmidt. Most importantly though, is that the 24% of defeats were followed up with a renewed effort and focus from the team to set the record straight.

Here are the lowlights of Schmidt’s reign that have led back to excellent highs.

England 21 Ireland 13, September 2015

The most directionless 40 minutes of rugby with Schmidt at the helm thankfully came in a meaningless fixture. Ireland were 12 – 3 down by half-time and the second half mini-recovery wasn’t enough to reel Stuart Lancaster’s side in.

Anthony Watson celebrates his try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Reaction: Two weeks later Ireland hit the ground running at the World Cup and blasted Canada away 50 – 7.

Wales 23 Ireland 16, March 2015

Another occasion when Ireland fell behind, trailing Warren Gatland’s men 12 – 0 before the visitors’ rally came through a powerful effort at scrum and maul. A different last-minute call from Wayne Barnes on the try-line could have given Ireland a draw, but they were left to regret the opening 15 minutes.

Sean O'Brien makes a break Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The Reaction: Seven short days later, Ireland overtook Wales on the table with a 10 – 40 win away to Scotland. And that proved just enough to take the Six Nations crown.

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England 13 Ireland 10, February 2014

Another defeat that might have been swung had a late controversial refereeing call not gone against Paul O’Connell. And yet, after going in scoreless at half-time and taking the one clear try-scoring opportunity, Ireland coughed up the lead when Mike Brown and Danny Care combined to strike from distance.

England fans celebrate as Danny Care scores his side's opening try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Reaction: We had to wait two weeks between games, but the Brian O’Driscoll farewell party – with its seven tries and 46 points against Italy – set Ireland back on the front foot in the chase for the Championship.

Ireland 15 Australia 32, November 2013

With Schmidt at the helm and a team Ireland always fancy upsetting in town there was a swell of confidence despite the looming winter of 2013. That confidence was soon cut to shreds as Quade Cooper conducted the game and helped the Wallabies run in four tries to nil.

Rob Kearney runs in for a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Reaction: Eight days later the performance against a New Zealand side chasing the perfect season remains the most ferocious Ireland have been.

Ireland 16 Italy 9, October 2015

A win, but a win complete with the worrying signs from the Twickenham warm-up. Italy lived up to their side of the bargain and poured everything into shocking Ireland. Though Schmidt’s men never trailed, they struggled to cope with the weakest side in the Six Nations and were happy to hear the final whistle with Keith Earls’ try ultimately the difference between the teams.

Keith Earls celebrates scoring a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Reaction? Bring on Les Bleus.

Analysis: Inaccurate Ireland’s game plan struggles to break down Italy

Ireland Women will face England in a November international next month

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Sean Farrell

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