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'It hurts right now. That's a big score to offer up' - Schmidt looks towards Wales

After a hammering in Twickenham, Ireland must face into a trip to Cardiff next weekend.

JOE SCHMIDT WILL, as always, have extensively reviewed Ireland’s hammering at the hands of England by this morning.

There is a horrific review coming the way of the Irish players, after a record defeat to England – both in the 57 points conceded and England’s +42 winning margin – left Schmidt with a vast range of areas to highlight.

cj-stander-dejected-after-the-game Ireland delivered a concerning showing against England. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And yet, one has to wonder if laying into his players again is the right move now. The Ireland coach eviscerated his men behind closed doors at Twickenham yesterday, but there is a challenge for Schmidt now in ensuring his squad hold whatever confidence they have left, building it back up again for the World Cup.

Already, the belief must have been on fragile ground coming into yesterday’s game, with recent memories of the Six Nations defeats to England and Wales. The performance at Twickenham surely added to any creeping doubts in Irish minds.

Ireland played in tense, tired fashion and there is no doubt that a heavy training week in Portugal contributed to that. Whereas Mondays in competitive match weeks are low-key affairs in terms of workload, Schmidt led his players in a demanding pitch session last Monday.

Whereas Wednesdays are down days for all players in regular match weeks, there were some who started yesterday in the gym on Wednesday of this week. Clearly, Ireland are heavily focused on physically peaking at the World Cup.

But fatigue can’t fully explain how Ireland’s lineout so catastrophically collapsed – directly playing a part in English tries and delivering very poor ball to the Irish backs when they did manage to retain their own throw.

Nor can it explain the desperately weak first-phase defence for three English scrum tries, with misreads all over the place and a serious lack of connection among Schmidt’s backline.

Speaking post-match at Twickenham, Schmidt didn’t quite go along with the idea that maintaining confidence is now a big challenge, but he did underline that his team needs to bounce back convincingly next weekend away to Wales in the third of four warm-up games before flying out to Japan.

joe-cokanasiga-goes-free-to-score-his-second-try Joe Cokanasiga races clear for an England try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I don’t think so, but inevitably it hurts right now. That’s a big score to offer up and there are some elements of the process that we know weren’t good enough.

“There are a couple of things that there are little bits of promise in but to miss 34 tackles, to be sluggish in getting ourselves organised as we were… I knew we’d be a bit heavy-legged, I knew it wouldn’t be perfect today because we had had a big workload.

“I think you saw that with Wales versus England in their first match and then the next week they managed to topple them. Scotland managed to topple France today because they weren’t quite ready the first week. 

“You do get a bit of that, but it doesn’t happen automatically. We’ve got an away game in the Millennium next weekend, it will be Gats’ last game there and I’m pretty sure they’ve sold that out so it’s going to be a bit of a cauldron to go to, but that will be a great challenge for these players because they’re going to have to really step up and turn things around.”

Schmidt would have been making changes to his team for next weekend regardless of the result against England, but there is certainly plenty more food for thought now.

It’s unlikely that first-choice out-half Johnny Sexton will be rolled out to start in Cardiff, with the second clash against Wales in Dublin on 7 September looking more realistic, but the dynamic Jack Conan and James Ryan are among those who could feature next weekend.

“There’s a few guys who could come into the picture next week and probably bring a little bit of the energy that we were lacking today, so we’ll look at that,” said Schmidt.

the-ireland-team-dejected Ireland have to pick themselves up quickly. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I think also guys like Keith Earls – those sorts of guys we still feel will come in and add some value yet.”

Sexton, Earls, Ryan, Conan, Dave Kilcoyne, Robbie Henshaw, and Will Addison are the only players in Schmidt’s current 40-man squad who have yet to feature after two of the four warm-up games and the Ireland head coach admitted some may not be seen this weekend.

“There’s probably one or two that we might bring in again for the final weekend, so we have a little bit of a plan,” said Schmidt.

“Some guys are operating on a pre-season that is just coming to a close and then they’ll freshen up and get into the game next week or the week after, depending on how we feel they’re going.

“We certainly need to hit the ground running against Scotland [on 22 September] so we can’t afford to be mixing and matching too much right now.”

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Murray Kinsella

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