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Dublin: 10 °C Sunday 17 February, 2019
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'It’s never ideal losing your 10, but you have to be ready for anything'

Garry Ringrose felt Ireland adapted well to losing Sexton twice, but Joe Schmidt didn’t quite agree.

JOE SCHMIDT CERTAINLY felt that losing Johnny Sexton for two spells during Friday night’s 22-9 defeat to Wales was particularly detrimental to Ireland’s hopes of keeping their Six Nations bid alive.

Naturally, losing any player to the sin bin makes life tough for the remaining 14 players over the course of those 10 minutes, and Ireland conceded 10 points in the spell after Sexton’s yellow card for failing to roll away close to the Irish tryline before half time.

Dan Biggar and Jonathan Sexton Dane Biggar takes a look at Sexton's shiner on Friday night. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But Ireland also had to cope without their out-half earlier in the opening half, with Sexton departing for a Head Injury Assessment after taking a blow from Jonathan Davies’ thigh as he scrambled back to gather in a Welsh kick.

Paddy Jackson entered the game in his place, and almost instantly Ireland conceded.

While several other Ireland players could have done more to prevent that first George North score, Schmidt pointed to Jackson’s role in the try concession twice on Friday night.

What that does for Jackson’s confidence is questionable, but it appears to remain an issue for Ireland that losing Sexton – now seemingly a frequent occurrence – disrupts the rest of the team.

“We have to make adjustments,” said centre Garry Ringrose on Friday night. “It’s never ideal losing your 10, but you have to be ready for anything, whether it’s injury or getting a card.

“It’s up to us at 12 and 13 to adjust as best you can. Johnny is a world-class player so you’d prefer him to be on the pitch, but these things happen and it could have easily been another one of us getting a yellow card and not just him. So we did our best to adjust.

“I thought Jacko did brilliant for the HIA. He came on and kicked three points, so it was certainly seamless there. And then, I mean, Wales did very well to get into the position
they did and it was a tough yellow card.

Jonathan Sexton dejected Sexton leaving the pitch in Cardiff on Friday night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“And we kind of had to dig deep and go from there. I wasn’t over in South Africa, but the lads had to dig deep when they went down to 13 men at one stage over there. We all knew we had to front up and try and do our best for those 10 minutes until Johnny was back on.”

Despite the concession of those 10 points in 10 minutes, which Schmidt pointed to as so important, Ireland did manage to get themselves back to within six point of the Welsh at 15-9 with just under 25 minutes of the contest remaining.

There were chances to push in front late on too, but Ireland left them untaken, and eventually Jamie Roberts finished the game by scoring at the other end after Taulupe Faletau blocked down a poor Sexton kick.

“The belief was certainly there,” said Ringrose. “We dug deep and got into the right areas. It was just unfortunate again, just getting that close, and then little errors.

“The margins are so fine at this level. That’s what I’m kind of learning. And then they managed to turn things around and get it right at the other end. So it’s certainly a few tough lessons that we’ve learned from that.”

Ringrose admitted that he has “worries” about retaining Ireland’s 13 shirt for next weekend, with Jared Payne’s fitness boosted by a start for Ulster yesterday against Zebre.

The test of facing off against “two incredible players” in Davies and Scott Williams will allow Ringrose to learn from what he says were errors in his individual performance, and now Irish eyes have turned towards facing England in Dublin next Saturday.

Garry Ringrose tackled by Jamie Roberts Ringrose is tackled by Jamie Roberts late on. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We’ll have to decompress this and see how we can get better and learn as much as possible,” said Ringrose. “And then there is definitely that focus towards next week and there’s no shortage of motivation really playing against England in front of a home crowd.

“We need to put on the best performance possible for the supporters.”

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Murray Kinsella

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