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Schmidt: 'It was a genuine test and we showed a bit of rustiness'

The Ireland head coach reflected on a hard-fought World Cup warm-up win against Scotland today.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IT WAS ANOTHER win for his Ireland team but head coach Joe Schmidt identified plenty of areas for improvement.

Schmidt’s side ran in four tries in today’s 28-22 World Cup warm-up victory against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium, but ‘rusty’ appears to be the general verdict in terms of the performance.

The Scots scored three tries of their own and wrestled the lead back from Ireland on three separate occasions in the second-half alone.

“I thought it was a test; a genuine test of all natures,” Schmidt told Sky Sports afterwards. “Physically, I think it really brought a real collision focus and it made it very hard to get advantage line.

“I think the lungs were bursting at times there as well and we started to drop off tackles or drop out of the defensive line. We’ll have a look back at that and try to build on that, and try to maintain our pressure on them.

“I think it was a bit of a test of character as well, falling behind a number of times and having to build our way back into the game. That’s what you want at this time; you want to be able to see players under pressure. For 14 lads it was their first hit-out and I think we showed a bit of rustiness.”

Starting at full-back, Simon Zebo did his hopes of inclusion in Ireland’s World Cup squad no harm whatsoever by chipping in with a try and earning himself the man-of-the-match award.

“I thought Simon did really well,” Schmidt said of the Corkman. “He was very secure when the ball was in the air. I thought he defended really well and, of course, he finished that try superbly.

“I think Dave Kearney coming on to that ball, opening him up and then Simon Zebo doing exactly the same thing, it was probably something we had identified at half-time and it was good to see it being executed, and you couldn’t ask for two better guys to do it.”

Simon Zebo is tackled by Greig Tonks Ireland’s Simon Zebo is tackled by Scotland’s Greig Tonks Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Zebo was reluctant to be drawn on whether the performance was enough to secure his World Cup place — “I don’t really know, to be honest” — but the Corkman admitted that in spite of the win, the team’s overall performance illustrated that there’s still plenty of work to be done before next month’s World Cup kick-off.

“It gives you confidence but, at the same time, we’re still a bit rusty and it’s still early on,” Zebo said. “The first games after the holidays coming back in are Test matches so that’s a tough standard to jump straight into, but we’re happy with the progress we’re making and hopefully we can continue that way.”

Having been in the ascendancy with 15 minutes remaining thanks to Peter Horne’s try, which Ruaridh Jackson converted, Scotland head coach Vern Cotter felt that his side didn’t do themselves any favours with the manner in which they let the game slip away.

He said: “We orchestrated our own demise really. They’re a very good team but if we can just do a couple of things better after long phases of play and perhaps in some of the choices we made, we’d look at it again and perhaps we’d do them differently.”

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Paul Dollery

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