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Schmidt sees no need for overhaul after Millennium Stadium defeat

The Kiwi faces a sleepless week as he reflects on the what ifs and the maybes of the Cardiff loss.

Murray Kinsella reports from Cardiff

THE DISAPPOINTMENT WILL likely last the entire week for Joe Schmidt, but he won’t be panicking about any need for Ireland to make major changes.

Sleepless nights lie ahead, but there’s not really anything beyond the routine in that for the Kiwi who finds it so hard to switch off.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt was understandably downbeat after his side were defeated. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Even in a performance that was beneath their usual lofty standards, Ireland had the opportunities required to win this game. Field position and possession were not issues, but turning those factors into the points required to better Wales was.

The lingering frustration will be hard to shake before next weekend, although a big win in Edinburgh to secure a second consecutive championship would certainly remove that feeling.

As coaches it means a lot to us,” said Warren Gatland post-match when asked if he could empathise with Schmidt. “When you suffer a loss the next three or four days are a struggle, even in terms of getting out of bed sometimes.”

For Schmidt, that won’t quite be the problem.

“I struggle to go to bed to be honest,” said the Ireland head coach with a pained smile when the Gatland’s point was relayed to him shortly after.

“I look at the game, I think about the what ifs and the maybes, because I think there were a fair few what ifs and maybes.

“I look at the last lineout drive, I look at the scrum, I look at the 22 and the pressure and how close we got to getting over the line, and the small margins that if you manage to do that then you potentially change the result.

Peter O'Mahony Peter O'Mahony shows his dejection at full time in Cardiff. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I felt at 20-16 that we were back in the game, we were inside a score away from them, and I felt we attacked pretty positively right from the restart, got up to halfway and then unfortunately gave them a penalty that allowed them to go further in front.”

Schmidt admitted “there is concern” over Ireland’s failure to turn visits to the opposition 22 into tries on a consistent basis, and that appears to the the crux of this defeat in particular.

To spend almost eight minutes in possession in the Wales 22 in the third quarter of the game and fail to cross the tryline, refusing to shape for a drop goal at any stage, was a major stumbling block for Ireland.

The missed lineouts, the inaccurate passes, the sloppy clear-outs and the ignored overlaps are the moments of execution that will be highlighted in Monday’s video review at Carton House.

But Schmidt has no sense that Ireland got their strategy wrong in this fixture.

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“The strategy was the same as it has been for the last few weeks and it’s probably not [a case of going] back to the drawing board,” said the former Clermont assistant coach.

Peter O'Mahony Ireland's lineout suffered badly at the hands of the Welsh. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Results have very narrow margins and if you miss a few opportunities… I can think of three times we should have put ourselves in positions to score a try.

“We won those bits of field position, then tried to put those in place and we had a number of attacks inside the 22. On the back of those, there’s a fair bit of good in the game.

I think if you start to throw the baby out with the bathwater, it’s pretty hard to start all over again.”

A learning curve for Ireland it was, and at a valuable time. If 2015 is all about the Rugby World Cup, the experience of having to chase a game might well stand to Schmidt’s side in the not-too-distant future.

The hope is that next time Ireland will have the impetus to make those crucial extra metres over tryline. Whether that comes in the form of a tweak to a strategy they’re already content with or the introduction of another face or two remains to be seen.

More pressingly, Schmidt’s sleepless week leads up to the opportunity to retain the Six Nations crown.

‘We were screaming for it out wide’ – Ireland rue major missed chance

‘We’ve only got ourselves to blame’ — Joe Schmidt

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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