'Those two guys are not the reason we lost' - Schmidt on Sexton and Murray

The Ireland boss only replaced his starting halfbacks in the closing 10 minutes in Cardiff.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Principality Stadium

THE CENTRAL NATURE of their role means halfbacks’ errors are magnified, with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton proving to be a case in point today as Ireland were well beaten by Wales in Cardiff.

Ireland, who now drop to third in the World Rugby rankings as Wales move up to second, were collectively poor but the display from their nine and 10 has already drawn particular concern from supporters.

Jonathan Sexton Sexton made several errors for Ireland. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

Murray box-kicked into touch on the full at one stage while also firing a handful of inaccurate passes, as Sexton struggled badly for Ireland.

The out-half fired a garryowen out on the full, passed into touch at one stage and had problems kicking restarts, one of them rolling dead and handing Wales a midfield scrum.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt waited until a late stage before replacing his halfbacks, as Murray departed in the 70th minute and Sexton was called ashore in the 73rd.

Connacht’s Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty had little time to show their ability, although both had some nice touches in the limited window.

Carty is, of course, inexperienced but has been playing with real confidence in recent times and impressed off the bench against France last weekend. Marmion has only recently returned from injury but has shown excellent form for Connacht.

With that in mind, it must have been tempting for Schmidt to replace his halfbacks a little earlier in the game.

“We’re trying to build those two guys forward,” said the Ireland head coach when asked about keeping Sexton and Murray on until the closing 10 minutes.

“They haven’t had a huge amount of game time so I think it’s important to invest in people.

Conor Murray box kicks Murray box kicks for Ireland. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

“That was part of the remit we decided we were going to prioritise in this Six Nations. Whether it bears fruit at the other end of this season, we’ll see.

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“But I don’t get into prognostics, all I do is try to get into preparation. The best preparation for top-class players is to be in pressure-cooker situations and to work their way through them.

“If, every time that isn’t going well, you take them off, I don’t think you’re growing them back to where they need to be. 

“They’ve had so many days in the team where they’ve been the hub upon which the wheel has turned and the wheel has generally gone forward. Over the last two years, we’ve played 26 Test and lost three of them.

“To lose today is really tough but those two guys are not the reason we lost. Those two guys, we’ll continue to invest in just as we have in Jack Carty and getting Kieran Marmion back – I thought he came on and did really well.

“John Cooney has acquited himself well in the earlier part of the championship as well, so you just keep trying to grow people and keep trying to keep your confidence in them so they keep their confidence in themselves.” 

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