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Roux and Farrell earn Schmidt praise as Ireland get 'a rise in temperature'

The Ireland head coach was disappointed with his team’s kicking in Edinburgh.

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

THIS WAS NOT Ireland back to their Grand Slam-winning and All Blacks-beating best, far from it, but Joe Schmidt was satisfied that his side returned to winning ways in Scotland at least.

They scored three tries but stuttered in attack on other occasions, with Schmidt pointing to the set-piece and Ireland’s defence as the keys to their victory over the Scots in Murrayfield.

Conor Murray celebrates scoring a try with Keith Earls Ireland scored three tries in Murrayfield. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

It was clear post-match that the Ireland boss was unhappy with elements of his side’s performance – their kicking in particular – but he was happy to see an improvement after the disappointment of losing at home to England in round one.

That said, missing out on a bonus point in Murrayfield – after giving one up to England – means Ireland are still going to be chasing this Six Nations.

“To be honest, it’s not even something you want to be able to say but there was definitely a rise in temperature, there was definitely an increase in energy,” said Schmidt.

“It was hard to put your finger on why we just lacked a little bit of energy last week, but you’ve got to have energy when you make as many tackles as we did in the first-half today.

“We’ve got to make sure we kick on from here. We’re relying on other people now but the one thing we don’t have to rely on other people for is how we prepare ourselves, and how we get out and play the week after next and then those final two weeks.”

A trip to Italy is next on the cards, with Ireland taking on the Azzurri on Sunday 24 February in Rome, when they will hope to have the likes of Garry Ringrose, Tadhg Beirne, Robbie Henshaw and others back from injury.

In the absence of several front-liners in Scotland, though, Schmidt was pleased with the performances of those who had been given opportunities.

Chris Farrell tackled by Jamie Ritchie Chris Farrell carries for Ireland. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Munster centre Chris Farrell and Connacht lock Quinn Roux received particularly glowing reports from Schmidt, who brought them up despite being asked specifically about Conor Murray and Sean O’Brien.

“I thought Chris Farrell went really well and I know a few things went astray around Chris but I felt he did incredibly well because Robbie [Henshaw] was in and out
on Tuesday, when we were hopeful, almost in on Thursday and we were hopeful
with that dead leg.

“In the end, Chris had to step in at reasonably short notice and I thought he did a sterling job. That gives us huge confidence, it gives players around them huge confidence that he can step in and do a job for us like he did.

“I thought Quinn Roux stepped in, called the lineout with 100% accuracy. Ultan Dillane got a super steal towards the end as well, so some of those guys. We’re missing Dev [Toner] and Hendy [Iain Henderson] and Tadhg Beirne but other guys are stepping up and doing a good job.

“That’s the confidence we’ve got to have in the squad because that’s the reality that can happen. It seems to be Murphy’s Law, if we get an injury in one positon, your next injury is in the same position and very quickly, you’re looking to get guys involved.

“Quinn was unlucky to be named in the squad initially and then he’s out there and bossing the lineout. That’s a big transformation to have to make.”

Pushed to give a verdict on openside flanker O’Brien’s performance as he returned to the starting team, Schmidt indicated frustration with some of the refereeing decisions from Romain Poite.

Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane and Bundee Aki Roux with Connacht team-mates Ultan Dillane and Bundee Aki. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I thought Sean grew into the game,” said Schmidt. “He got some fantastic pressure and got a turnover at one stage that was decided as a scrum. I thought he got some great pressure on the ball.

“I thought Bundee Aki was incredibly unlucky twice to be penalised when it looked to me like… he did put one hand down but the ball was available and he plucked it.

“But those are the things that Sean brings for us, he gets great pressure on the ball and another day he might have got a couple of turnovers.”

As for scrum-half Murray, Schmidt was disappointed with how he and others in the Ireland team managed the kicking game.

“We’ve got to get better at that,” said Schmidt. “I think our kicking game is a strength for us, as a rule, and we’ll be looking to remedy a few of those things and get a bit more continuity.

“I think Conor started taking a bit more responsibility when Johnny [Sexton] was feeling a little bit sluggish, particularly because his ankle was very sore. It’s very swollen now but it is just swelling from a graze down his leg. From that perspective, he’ll bounce back from that pretty quickly as well.

“Conor was trying to kick from positions he wouldn’t normally kick from and when you’re trying too hard to do something, it sometimes goes awry.”

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