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'Don't give up on this team': Schmidt confident Ireland will bounce back

There are major areas for concern heading towards the World Cup.

ARGUABLY IRELAND’S WORST performance, and worst defeat, in the Joe Schmidt era does not inspire confidence heading into the World Cup later this year, but the head coach insists this team will bounce back from their Cardiff horror show.

Not only did Wales blow Ireland away with a ferocious performance brimming with physicality, intent and raw emotion to win their third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland, but serve up another sobering reality check for the visitors.

CJ Stander dejected It was a difficult afternoon for Ireland in Cardiff. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ireland ended this championship as they started it; completely dominated and hammered, out-played in every facet and undermined by an error-strewn, ill-disciplined and off-colour showing. 

Jordan Larmour’s late try, when the clock had gone red, ensured Ireland avoided a humiliating whitewash and being ‘nilled’ in a Test match for the first time since losing 60-0 to New Zealand in June 2012 and the first time in the Five/Six Nations since a 23-0 defeat to England in 1990. 

In contrast, it was a memorable afternoon for Wales as they completed an impressive clean sweep to jump ahead of Ireland into second in the world rankings and enhance their World Cup credentials ahead of September’s tournament.

Hadleigh Parkes’ early try set the Welsh on their way at the Principality Stadium, while 20 points from the right boot of Gareth Anscombe inflicted a second heavy defeat on Ireland in this Six Nations.

“I’m disappointed,” Schmidt said afterwards. “Our discipline doesn’t usually let us down, it allowed them to get a distance ahead of us, they scored after a couple of minutes and you’re always under a little bit of pressure and we didn’t respond overly well to that pressure giving up those penalties. 

“We weren’t as good as Wales today. They were hugely emotionally up for it and I know because we were in the same position last year going to Twickenham and you get another 5%. It’s hard to match but you’ve got to be able to match it, there will be occasions like that in the future.”

The great irony, of course, was that Wales dealt with the wet conditions Schmidt insisted on far better, as their pack ensured dominance at the set-piece while Anscombe and Gareth Davies pulled the strings. Conversely, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton were so far off the pace.

“We usually play in these conditions well, to be honest,” Schmidt continued. “Our set-piece is usually our strength and that wasn’t controlled well today. They certainly squeezed our lineout and at the same time, we’d back ourselves in those areas to control the game.

Hadleigh Parkes celebrates scoring a try with Jonathan Davies Parkes scored Wales' early try. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

“And our kicking game, I thought Conor and Johnny, they’re really coming back into some form and we thought we’d be able to control the territory game. The first questions we have to ask of our ourselves.

“As I explained, it’s a window where Wales had so much to play for, us not so much. I would never say we were not giving it 100% and some of that 100% was not well directed and you give away those penalties.

“I thought Wales did a superb job. In that context, I still have confidence we’ll bounce back and we’ll be competitive next time we’re out and about.”

It was a bitterly disappointing way for Schmidt’s final Six Nations game in charge to go. 

“It is but if you said to me six years ago, ‘Joe you can have three Six Nations and one of them can be a Grand Slam’, I would have taken that with both hands,” he added.

I can’t endorse this group as much for what they’ve achieved. While it wasn’t our day today, that’s the nature of sport and we’ve got to pick ourselves up and acknowledge Wales have had a super season.

“The one thing I’d say is don’t give up on this team. They’re a hard-working, skilful bunch who will take this on the chin, they’ll be gracious in defeat because Wales did a super job.”

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Ryan Bailey

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