'Unhappy' Schmidt gets a bonus
SIX NATIONS REACTION: Joe Schmidt confessed to being unhappy with Ireland’s scrappy 26-16 win over Italy in Rome on Sunday, which kept alive their hopes of defending the title.
The 53-year-old New Zealander’s side has looked a shadow of the one that achieved the Grand Slam last year and lost just one Test rounding it off with a historic home win over world champions New Zealand to sit second in the world rankings.
Schmidt, who steps down after the World Cup later this year, said a series of dropped passes and other elementary errors had made it a tough watch in Rome.
“Obviously the bottom line is you want a win and a bonus point,” he said in his post-match reaction.
“We got the point so you have to be happy with that but I am not happy with the performance.
“Passes went to ground and we manufactured other errors, you have to be more accurate than that.”
Schmidt said the reason world player of the year Johnny Sexton was replaced for place-kicking duties by Conor Murray was he had taken a few too many hits.
“He was taking a bit of a hiding out there, he was a bit beaten up and got a bump on his quadricep. He will dust himself off he will be fine.”
Skipper Peter O’Mahony was one of the few Irish players to maintain the level of his performances from last year and deservedly took the man of the match award.
He felt it was mission accomplished but conceded that work had to be done before the visit of the French in two weeks’ time.
“We knew how difficult it is to come to Rome,” he said.
“It’s an incredibly physical battle and they are a super rugby team, [Italy coach] Conor O’Shea is doing an incredible job. They put us under the pump and we expected that.
“There is certainly stuff we can do better, and I know a lot is expected of us, but five points away from home is good because it is difficult to win on the road in the Six Nations.”
Ireland’s prolific try scorer Jacob Stockdale took his tally to 14 in 17 Tests and could easily have snaffled a second one right at the death with a breakaway but came up short.
“Yes, happy with a bonus point but frustrating we did not put down much of a marker,” said Stockdale who admitted he could not pinpoint why the team were not clicking as they did last year.
“If we knew we would be able to fix it but at the end of the day we have two wins from three.”
O’Shea praised his players for another performance that suggested they really could begin to turn a corner in the long term despite a 20th successive Six Nations defeat.
“There might be a disparity in money and investment but you cannot buy heart,” said the 48-year-old Irishman.
“We showed heart and desire but it’s another result and we have to dust ourselves down.
“It’s a nice easy one away at Twickenham next and I want to see them play without fear.
“The players know we are doing the right things but we have to take what we do on the training field onto the pitch.
“There is a real belief in what we are doing but we know it’s a mountain to climb.”
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