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'Don't lose faith' - Joe Schmidt calls for time to rebuild after Twickenham defeat

Ireland are in a transitional period, according to the head coach.

Joe Schmidt: Ireland showed 'real character'.
Joe Schmidt: Ireland showed 'real character'.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

JOE SCHMIDT HAS called for patience as his new-look side work through a ‘transition period’ in their development.

Shorn of a host of frontline players, not to mention the retirement of Paul O’Connell, and trying to implement a more expansive running game, Schmidt has overseen a difficult Six Nations campaign with this side yet to register a win in the competition.

“There’s a little bit of a transition period,” said Schmidt following his side’s 21-10 defeat at Twickenham.

“We’re building past that hopefully. I guess the only thing I’d say is don’t lose faith that we won’t keep building. Hopefully that will be sufficient to get people enthusiastic about what we do in the next two games.

“Look, I’m positive by nature. I think we tried to play positively. I think we demonstrated today with the enterprise we showed and we’re going to keep trying to do that. I am excited about some of the young guys that are coming in. Some of them have spent a week or two with us in match-day mode.

“They’ve shown hints that they can well step up this level and that has to be a positive, going forward.”

Certainly, Stuart McCloskey and Josh van der Flier looked more than comfortable on their Test debuts while Ultan Dillane made an explosive impact from the bench late in the game.

“We need to get a result and make sure we build over the next two weeks to get a result towards that,” said the Kiwi head coach.

“It’s an incredibly proud group. I think they showed some real character today particularly in that first-half defending.

“I thought we really challenged them (England). They’re a really good team, a very settled team. I think they’ve had very good consistency of selection through this championship so far. All those players are very well-known to us over the past few years.

“To be honest, it’s really tough at the moment for players who take so much pride and make such a big effort to do the best they can and we’re not quite getting the best result but I don’t seriously feel that we’re a million miles away.”

Ireland took an unmerciful battering from a Billy Vunipola-inspired England during the opening 40 minutes at England HQ. It was a testament to Ireland’s courageous defensive effort that they went in at the break only trailing by three points.

Conor Murray’s early second-half try offered hope but that exhausting first half, in which Ireland were forced to make a punishing 95 tackles, eventually told as Anthony Watson and Mike Brown crossed for tries in a five-minute blitz that effectively killed off the contest.

“I felt we probably let them come back at us too easily,” Schmidt explained.  “It is hard to stop them. There was probably a little bit of fatigue there from that first-half when they put the pressure on.

“So, for them to get back ahead of us after getting 10-6 up was disappointing and then, obviously, you lose a game because a ball falls out of a player’s hand or because there seems to a dark patch on the TV when you’re waiting for a TMO decision and it doesn’t fall your way.

“They’re the fine margins because they were teams that were relatively evenly-match in a number of ways. I think one of the things is they squeezed up the lineout really well and that platform didn’t work for us to keep the pressure on. Once you’re in the 22, and you’ve got those opportunities, you can’t release that valve too easily and I think they grabbed a few of those… those are the fine margins as I said.”

Great interplay from Dillane and Van der Flier had England reeling late in the contest with the Leinster openside subsequently barrelling his away over from close-range.

Chris Robshaw Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

The TMO thought differently, however, as another key decision failed to go Ireland’s way.

“Yeah, we saw that angle, we thought, and I think the players thought it was a try,” said Schmidt.

“We can’t buy a trick at the moment. It’s frustrating. It would have put us back in the game with five or six minutes to go and them a man down.

“That build-up for Josh’s (potential) try came from a really good line-break from Ultan Dillane. We get quick ball there and I think we score. It was an evening of frustration but we’ve got to get better and get that support there so we don’t allow them to slow that ball down.”

Brown’s reckless use of the boot is sure to attract the attention of the citing commissioner.

“They have people who look at those things,” added Schmidt. “I have never ever tried to influence that. They made a decision on the field and it is something they’ll look back at because Conor obviously has stitches right next to his eye.

“That strategy is fraught with risk, particularly with players in close proximity but I know that Mike Brown would not have done it on purpose. He’s trying to connect with the ball. It is something that we don’t influence and it’s for other people to determine whether he is culpable for being reckless.”

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