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'It looks like a very tough championship to win, but we're not out of it'

Joe Schmidt doesn’t think Ireland were complacent before their awful start in Edinburgh.

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

FIRSTLY, LET’S DEAL with the late arrival thing.

Why were Ireland 15 minutes late getting to Murrayfield?

“We were certainly on time leaving the hotel, it just took a long time,” said Joe Schmidt.

“Those things happen. It’s certainly not an excuse for being late to things in the first half. It’s just probably a reflection of how the start of the day went for us.”

Greig Laidlaw celebrates after kicking a penalty to win the game Greig Laidlaw celebrates his penalty with the last play of the game. Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

There we go – no excuse. Ireland have only themselves to blame if there was disruption to their pre-game routine. Leave the hotel earlier next time. Make sure there’s a police escort. Get a better driver – whatever it takes to be on time. We move on.

The main reason Ireland suffered defeat in Murrayfield was the dire start they made to their opening Six Nations fixture. They lost collisions with passive tackling, failed to bring enough energy to how they folded and got spacing in their defensive line, missed two close-range try-scoring opportunities and were outplayed at the ruck.

A comeback to lead 22-21 was positive, of course, but Ireland’s failure to turn 12 linebreaks into further scores meant they gave the impressive Scotland every chance of winning.

“You make your own luck, to be honest,” said Schmidt afterwards. “They made their own luck when it counted for them. When we made linebreaks, even in the second half, we didn’t get the separation we needed.

“Rob [Kearney] put a toe in touch and that’s what happens. When Jamie [Heaslip] got the pass from Conor Murray going up the middle, they managed to get into the passing channel and get that ball back, we didn’t look after it.

“When Sean O’Brien made the break up the middle, we were just a little bit sluggish getting to him. They did a good job of shepherding players trying to get to him and there’s three crucial linebreaks in the second half that could have given us more breathing space.

“Because once we got ahead 22-21, we knew the game was far from over and that we had to increase the tempo and, at least, score once more. We knew they would create an opportunity at some stage.”

Schmidt feels the Scots have become a cannier side in Vern Cotter’s time in charge and mentioned their tacklers obstructing Conor Murray from getting to the ball at times, but that too was in Ireland’s hands.

Joe Schmidt at the post match press conference Joe Schmidt was understandably frustrated by Ireland's defeat. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Carry more effectively and bring more aggression to the ruck – there are solutions Ireland had in their own hands.

The Irish defence was alarming at times in the first half, as Scotland stretched and broke them with their high-tempo, flat and accurate attack.

Schmidt’s men appeared to be set up extremely narrow at times in defence, but then they were much better in the second half. Consistency seems to be the issue for this Irish defence, so how can Schmidt and Andy Farrell bring about improvement?

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“We’ll have a look on Monday and Tuesday and try to make sure that what we talk about doing and what we train to do, that we deliver it on the pitch,” said Schmidt. ”I think there is a bit of a contrast between the first and second half. I do think we got a lot right defensively in the second half, because they do have some fairly lethal attackers.

“They didn’t really look like breaking us down in the second half. That was 40 minutes too late, but I think there were solutions that were demonstrated. The key thing for us is that we’ve got to start better.

“One of the things that’s a danger is that when you consistently deliver something, you can just have an expectation that it’s going to happen. We tended to start well in recent Test matches, so for us not to start well maybe there was just a degree of… there was certainly a sluggishness of thought and movement in the first half.

“The solutions are there, I’m certainly hopeful they are based on what we delivered in the second half, but we’re going to have to make sure we start better than that in Rome next week.”

Was it complacency, Joe?

“No, it definitely wasn’t complacency.

“Sometimes you can just have an expectation that things are going to unfold and when they don’t, you’ve got to take account of that and make sure they do unfold by making sure you get what you need to get done. We didn’t really.”

Conor Murray and Paddy Jackson dejected Conor Murray and Paddy Jackson after their side's loss. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland are left chasing in the Six Nations, although they did pick up a losing bonus point. England’s narrow win over France this evening lifts them to second in the table behind the Scots, and all signs are of a fascinating championship.

For Ireland to start negatively is deeply disappointing for Schmidt but he’s confident a title can still be won.

“It’s obviously far from ideal, the defeat it pretty tough to take,” said Schmidt. “But it was always potentially a reality coming here. We knew that these guys had improved and I think VC [Vern Cotter] has done a great job with them.

“The championship now looks like a very tough championship to win. But we know we’re not out of it. We did pick up that bonus point.

“I think we’ve just got to try to go to Italy now and make sure we’ve got five or six points out of these first two games, and try to really get some momentum into the back half of the championship.”

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