Joe Schmidt will not dwell on tight Twickenham defeat
Championship ambitions still to play for over final two games
Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll shake hands following the Six Nations defeat to England at Twickenham. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is not planning any massive post-mortem on Saturday’s 13-10 defeat to England at Twickenham with the Six Nations Championship wide open even if the Triple Crown and Grand Slam disappeared in London.
Schmidt’s side still lead the Six Nations table thanks to a points difference of plus 42, 21 points better off than England with two games to go. Wales and France are also on four points, with the title set to go down to the final afternoon on March 15th.
Ireland are home to Italy on Saturday week before a trip to Paris to take on France in the final round.
Asked about Ireland’s championship ambitions in light of the Twickenham defeat, Schmidt said: “I think that’s the overriding piece of silverware that you want to get your hands on. Our points differential puts us in a good position, so we’ve got to make sure that we go forward to Italy as opposed to looking back too much at this game because as I’ve said we’ve got to take some positives from it.
“We came to Twickenham, a lot of people were saying that we wouldn’t get a result here and you can’t come too much closer to getting a result than a small one-score so I feel really sorry for the players because they put a lot of effort in. At the same time I’d have a lot of respect for what England managed to deliver.”
Schmidt pointed to the scrum, lineout and work off the set pieces as the positives of the performance, with a failure to clean out the fringes at ruck time on the negative side of the ledger.
He also took time out to highlight the performance of England fullback Mike Brown, who enjoyed a barnstorming afternoon at Twickenham.
“There was some unbelievable fielding from Mike Brown. We did go in behind them a couple of times. I think there was a goalkeeper save at one stage, another one bounced up that he got really well as a last defender. I thought he did a fantastic job,” said Schmidt.
“What went wrong was one line break that Mike Brown made. We were a little bit lucky early on in the game when Conor Murray did a great last-ditch tackle to dislodge the ball, but at the same time I thought we were very good for our lead at 10-3 and it’s massively disappointing not to have been able to defend that.”
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell pointed to Ireland’s failure to extend the post half-time purple patch a little further as key.
“I was really happy with that period just after half-time where we came out and did a lot of clever things and did a lot of physically dominant things and just really controlled the game for that period,” said O’Connell.
“We just didn’t maintain that control then, every team talks about that period after you score, where you need to retain the ball and hopefully make your next play in their half of the pitch and we didn’t retain the kick-off and put ourselves under pressure and they came and they had a few scores and their belief went up.
“If we had continued to dominate for another five or 10 minutes it could have been a different story but unfortunately we didn’t do that.
“There’s an awful lot to play for and Joe straight away moved on to preparing for the Italy game and that’s what we’ll do now. We’re still learning under Joe, it’s exciting playing under him and the players are really enjoying it, but it’s our first away game, disappointing loss in the Six Nations but I think we’ll probably end up learning an awful lot from it.”