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Schmidt unlikely to make 'knee-jerk reactions' after defeat in Edinburgh

The Ireland head coach believes his team can fix the defensive problems they suffered against Scotland.

Murray Kinsella reports from Edinburgh

DEFEATS FOR IRELAND invariably bring a few calls for heads, but Joe Schmidt says he is unlikely to be ditching players in the wake of an opening-day Six Nations defeat in Scotland.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt at Murrayfield on Saturday, with Andy Farrell in the background. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There were certainly individual errors and underperformances involved in Ireland losing 27-22 to Vern Cotter’s side, although many of the defensive shortcomings that allowed the Scots to race into a commanding lead were collective.

Ireland are on the back foot in this championship as a result, with their odds for a title success naturally widening in the wake of Saturday’s result, but Schmidt expects this group of players to react in a positive manner.

“We will look at the footage and make some decisions beyond that,” said Schmidt post-match at Murrayfield, “but I don’t think there is going to be too many knee-jerk reactions.

“These players have worked really hard to get to the position of being selected in the first place and so you don’t suddenly turn around and throw someone else into the mire.

“They feel that we are in this position and I am pretty sure that they will be pretty keen to fight their way out of this position.”

Trips to Rome and Cardiff, as well as home ties against France and England await in the remainder of this competition and Schmidt certainly hasn’t given up his title hopes.

“If we manage to go through the rest of the championship and win those games, I will still take a fierce bit of pride in this team to bounce back from today and that is the challenge that is there for them.

“The one thing I will say in favour of these players is that they tend to rise to challenges. And they have demonstrated that a few times in recent history.”

Joe Schmidt arrives The Ireland head coach arrives at Murrayfield. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Donnacha Ryan’s presence as 24th man in Edinburgh underlined that he was fit to play, meaning he is in the selection mix again, although there is uncertainty around out-half Johnny Sexton and wing Andrew Trimble, while Peter O’Mahony was deemed unlikely to be fit for this weekend’s visit to Italy.

Tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong “got a ding on the shoulder,” according to Schmidt, but should be fine.

Whatever about personnel, Ireland have plenty of work to do on their defence under Andy Farrell this week.

The concession of three tries in the first half was deeply damaging and Ireland will feel each one of them was preventable. The narrow nature of the Irish defence was a major cause for concern, bringing up memories of the 2015 World Cup defeat to Argentina.

Schmidt felt the issues arose more so in how players folded around the midfield rucks, however, and stressed that his side showed in the second half that they can defend well.

“It was a lot less to do with the wingers and more to do with the numbers we got around the corner and the numbers we got into the defensive line,” said Schmidt. ”If you have got numbers in the defensive line, then you have got a lot more of an opportunity to have certainty that you have got all the space covered and you have got their dangerous attackers covered.

“I thought we did that well in the second half where we almost created a frustration for them that allowed us opportunities.

“There were a few turnovers from them that saw us get in behind them and, you know, we got a lot more offensive because we got those numbers on their feet.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt and Andy Farrell have defensive work to do. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The tries we conceded today were particularly frustrating. The lineout one, obviously Besty has spoken about that, the two down the left-hand side that Stuart Hogg scored were frustrating, especially as we know the danger he represents.

“I think if you look at the second half, the defence was pretty sound and I would hope that is something we can build on.”

Ireland did manage to secure a losing bonus point in Edinburgh – the first-ever in the Six Nations – so they are off the mark in that sense at least.

It will be fascinating to note how bonus points affect the outcome of the championship, although Schmidt isn’t quite convinced that they give Ireland a greater chance of turning things around in the coming weeks.

“Not necessarily, because we have a five-point differential from today and on the back of that five-point differential, if you can build some good scores through the championship you would normally get back into the mix. Now it is the same anyway.

“The tough thing is that it will be tough again next week and we can’t afford to chase anything other than the win, first and foremost, because of the position we have put ourselves in.”

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Murray Kinsella

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