Best laid plans can vanish in no time in international rugby.
Joe Schmidt didn’t need the harsh lessons of last night’s loss to Australia to learn that, but he takes it on anyway as he attempts to build this “work in progress” Ireland team towards three big tournaments in the coming two years.
Both sides came into the encounter on the back of convincing wins; Ireland’s 40 and Australia’s 50-point haul against Samoa and Italy respectively giving two new coaches plenty of reason to be confident. However, only Australia will have ended this game that confidence still in tact as the green defensive line gave way numerous times as the Wallabies ran in four tries.
“I’d put a few fingers in a few different spots,” Schmidt said by way of a slightly nervous joke when asked to pin-point where Ireland fell short against the Wallabies.
From there the Kiwi would go on to bemoan the early malfunctioning line-out, missed kicks for touch, persistently allowing Israel Folau to gobble up box kicks, “defensive naivety” and a second half without direction when Jonathan Sexton was forced off.
“If we did get a line-break,” added Schmidt as he veered close to praising Australia, “the next ruck would inevitably be slow. It was very hard to get them off the ball post line-break or in the 22.
“While those penalties accumulated and resulted in a yellow card, it certainly made it difficult to play on the front foot.”
He added: “I don’t think we’re in a different place than we were last week which is disappointing, because you want to see a progression week to week, but that wasn’t evident on the field.”
While Ewen McKenzie spoke of how the homework his side had done on negating Ireland’s strengths had been successful, Schmidt was left with the opposite feeling; like a house of cards flopping down. However, he did contest the suggestion that it was time for a rethink on what areas needed work before the best team in world rugby arrive on Lansdowne Road.
“There’s no more work to be done than I thought. I knew we were a work in progress.”
“It’s certainly not the way we had planned things to go, but in a game things seldom go according to plan.
“You’ve got to be adaptable to cope. We undid ourselves to a degree.”
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