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'You can't always be riding the crest of a wave' - Schmidt's Ireland in transition

Ireland have a fortnight to pick themselves up before facing Italy in Dublin.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Murray Kinsella reports from London

YESTERDAY’S DEFEAT IN Twickenham was an odd one to come away from. There was frustration, despair and even some anger after losing in Paris, but fans’ feelings after this 21-10 result against England were a little more muted.

Keith Earls dejected after the game Keith Earls leaves the pitch dejected at Twickenham. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Indeed, many supporters honed in on the positives immediately post-match in London, which largely revolved around the promise shown by debutants Stuart McCloskey, Josh van der Flier and Ultan Dillane.

Ireland never should have lost to France, but there was something of an acceptance yesterday that, simply put, the better team won.

Expectations beforehand were less focused on a win and more so on the excitement of seeing those new players wearing green jerseys. Ireland were calm in their own assessment of the defeat, as well as their current status as a team that is undergoing change.

“Of course you want results now, but you can’t always be riding the crest of a wave,” said fullback Rob Kearney afterwards.

There are times of transition and perhaps we are in one. But at the same time we need to make sure we’re not making any excuses and the team that goes out are doing as best they can.

“I think we played quite well at times and if we took some of those opportunities it could have been a very different scoreboard.”

While there is a recognition that losing Paul O’Connell to retirement and then the likes of Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson, Sean O’Brien, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne and Luke Fitzgerald to injury means tasks like yesterday’s in Twickenham are going to be tough, Schmidt’s players don’t accept the turnover as an excuse for losing.

“I suppose it feels like there’s a lot of key guys who aren’t around anymore and that means other guys have to step up,” said replacement back row Rhys Ruddock.

“I think they’re doing that, but just to gel together and be as efficient as we had been probably takes time.

“We feel like we’re close, we really put together some pretty good rugby at times out there, especially towards the end. We had plenty of chances to score, but it’s about getting across the line. Those are the moments that decide games.”

Richard Strauss and Conor Murray after the match Conor Murray took a kick to the face from Mike Brown. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland find themselves fifth in the Six Nations table after the weekend’s action, though the prospect of fixtures at home against Italy and then Scotland means they should be able to improve that standing by the championship’s end.

The title, which Kearney admitted Ireland still had some hope of retaining before yesterday’s defeat, is now definitively gone.

That won’t stop Schmidt’s men working harder than ever as they look to win for the first time in five games when they welcome Italy to Dublin in two weekends’ time.

“Regardless of the championship being out of our grasp, at the end of the day you’re still playing for your country. It’s a Test match and I think that’s enough to motivate any player, especially the young guys, myself included, guys who haven’t had too much experience at this level,” said Ruddock.

So everyone’s going to be massively motivated to go out on a high with the last two games, and right a few wrongs as well.”

Looking ahead to that Italian contest and the fixture against Scotland on the closing day of the championship, Ireland fans will certainly be excited at the chance to see McCloskey, Dillane and van der Flier win their second caps.

Perhaps Joe Schmidt might even make a few more changes as he looks to build further experience in a squad that he believes are lacking in that particular attribute.

“The debutants did very well,” said Kearney of the new men. “They were fresh, hugely excited and everyone else was delighted they got the opportunity they deserved.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t make it a more special day for them and we just need to move forward now.”

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Murray Kinsella

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