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'We're hurting' - Schmidt hopes Six Nations lessons work out at World Cup

The Ireland boss must be honest in his reflection on this year’s Six Nations.

WARREN GATLAND AND his coaches were supposed to have a post-Six Nations review meeting tomorrow, but the Wales brains trust will instead spend the afternoon enjoying a long and boozy lunch.

The Grand Slam celebrations have been well-earned.

In contrast, Joe Schmidt will already be underway with his in-depth review of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign, which brought two defeats and left them in third place.

Ireland v France - Guinness Six Nations - Aviva Stadium Schmidt has an important review ahead. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan

“Once upon a time that wasn’t the catastrophe that it is today for Ireland,” said Schmidt after Saturday’s humiliating 25-7 defeat to the Welsh in Cardiff.

The Ireland boss, who will return home to New Zealand in the coming weeks, knows better than anyone that this championship was unacceptable, particularly the nature of the performances at home to England in round one and the final clash with Wales last weekend.

That Ireland started and finished in such miserable fashion – shattering hopes that Schmidt’s side could build into form – was concerning for supporters in a World Cup year.

Injuries haven’t been particularly helpful as Ireland used 36 players over the course of this championship, with Schmidt hoping that will pay off in the longer-term at the World Cup.

“We’re hurting, it’s a hollow feeling when you lose a game like that and it is frustrating but if, in hindsight, in November, we can say, “I am glad we did and I am glad we tried to build and widen and lay a foundation” then, you know, we have three of the last five of these things [Six Nations] and we got that Grand Slam last year.

“There is a risk and at the same time there is a responsibility to take a risk and we took a risk through the championship and we took risks putting different guys in and trying find out a little bit about guys.

“Tadhg Beirne, for example, hasn’t played a lot at all and he got back and he played that one game and at the same time some of the risk was forced on us because we lost Iain Henderson last week but we were pretty happy with some of the things Tadhg did today, and it allows us to build forward on the back of that.

“You know, I think getting Kieran Marmion back was really positive for us today. Earlier in the tournament we got to look at a number of players, so you know if we didn’t take that risk and I don’t think we did in 2015 and people will be quick to point out 2015 when we lost five of our very best senior players that there wasn’t much sympathy for not performing in the quarter-final, so I guess one of the things is that in trying to mitigate that, you have risk something somewhere else so, at the same time, there is no way we wanted to come here and lose and we didn’t want to lose at home to England either.”

Certainly, Schmidt’s record should give Irish fans confidence but the World Cup is now the worry, particularly given how poorly Irish teams have done in the global tournament before.

Schmidt’s review of this Six Nations will need to be brutally honest and include his own efforts as head coach. Selection, man management, tactics – everything must be considered to understand why Ireland had a poor championship.

The Ireland boss touched on many reasons post-match in Cardiff, including mentioning “a bug” that several players had to deal with last week, the concession of another early try and even news stories about his possible Ireland team breaking last week.

“One of the things for us which is probably frustrating is that Gats knows our team before time,” said Schmidt. “It didn’t help with the preparations, that’s always a frustration for us.

“It is those fine margins. You kind of want to keep a bit up your sleeve as long as you can but at the same time that is not the reason we lost. The reason we lost is they are a bloody good Welsh team and they had a helluva lot to play for.”

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Murray Kinsella

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