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Schmidt: 'England have set the benchmark' on opening Six Nations weekend

The Ireland head coach says his team need to find 30% to 40% more if they want to compete.

Schmidt wants more from his Ireland side.
Schmidt wants more from his Ireland side.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Murray Kinsella reports from Stadio Olimpico

JOE SCHMIDT SAYS England have set the benchmark on the opening weekend of the Six Nations and feels his Ireland side are 30% to 40% off where they need to be to compete for a second consecutive title.

Ireland scored two tries in a 26-3 win in Rome this afternoon to start their defence successfully, but Schmidt reflected on missed opportunities to do more damage in attack at Stadio Olimpico.

Stuart Lancaster’s England surprised Wales in the Millenium Stadium last night to win 21-16, signalling their quality in a performance that combined dogged defence with moments of invention in attack.

Schmidt admitted his side’s display in Rome had not been as smooth as he might have hoped for, with a late injury to openside Sean O’Brien not helping in that sense.

“Obviously we would have been delighted if we maybe got a couple of scores early,” said Schmidt post-match. “There was one down the short side after the maul and maybe a couple of other opportunities.

But I think the game probably went how a number of us suspected it would. It was a little bit disjointed at the start, exacerbated by Sean now being available to start.

“We didn’t help ourselves too much, but at the same time we got into some good field position and the Italian defence was very physical and very difficult to break down.”

Schmidt will watch the recording of France’s win over Scotland in detail this evening at Ireland’s team hotel on Via Vittorio Veneto in the centre of Rome, but he says England are now the team to beat after their success in Cardiff.

Jonathan Joseph celebrates scoring his side's second try with teammates Schmidt says England are the team to beat. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The benchmark was set by the England team in that second half against a very good Welsh team. England probably kept the pressure right on them and the physical nature of that battle certainly means we have work to do, without a doubt.

“We’ll have to roll our sleeves up early on next week and hopefully put together a sufficiently-improved performance to compete with France.”

Asked how exactly he rated the Irish performance in Rome compared to what England showed against Wales, Schmidt said there is much to come from Ireland.

I wouldn’t be a great guy to throw numbers out, but I’d say between 30% and 40% off,” said Schmidt. “I don’t think we would have lived with England last night and I thought Wales were pretty good.

“For us, we certainly need to up our game. I do think that part of it was the pressure Italy put on us, but at the same time, I know we can do better than that and we’re going to have to.”

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Murray Kinsella

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