Joe Schmidt urged Ireland supporters not to lose faith in their team after they were blown away in Cardiff by a Wales team that secured the Grand Slam.
Ireland’s 2019 Guinness Six Nations campaign ended as it had begun, with a demoralising defeat and this was perhaps an even poorer performance than the one that consigned Schmidt’s side to that round-one home defeat to England.
Like that opening fixture, Ireland conceded an early try as Hadleigh Parkes caught a clever chip by man of the match Gareth Anscombe to set up a rampant Welsh victory that completed a clean sweep of their rivals in a 25-7 win at Principality Stadium. Fly-half Anscombe kicked the rest of the points with the conversion and six penalties before Jordan Larmour grabbed a late consolation try, converted by Jack Carty in overtime to avoid what would have been a first Six Nations nilling, something that has not happened to the Irish in the championship since a Five Nations blank in 1990.
It delivered a record third Grand Slam for outgoing Wales head coach Warren Gatland while Ireland’s defeat was greeted with plenty of dismay from Irish supporters on social media and pundits in television studios but head coach Schmidt promised them Ireland would be back on song by the time the World Cup kicks off with a pool game against Scotland in Yokohama, Japan, on September 22.
"I guess you (media) guys will set the narrative really,” Schmidt said in his post-match press conference. “We can only perform in those two 40-minute windows that we get and then the narrative will be whatever pundits or journalists put out there.
"For us, we would certainly encourage the genuine supporter not to lose faith in the team. The team will definitely turn up in Japan and we'll grow a bit from this. You only have to look back a year and see that England went back-to-back in the championship (in 2016 and 17) and ended up fifth (in 2018).
"We've fought our way up to third, we're in the top half of the championship. We haven't been catastrophic but we haven't been as good as we needed to be. Today was probably an example of that.
"At the same time, I'd like to take my hat off to Wales and to Gats. To be 12 years as an international head coach, I've done six and it's damn near killed me. I don't know how Gats has managed 12 and to be as competitive as they have been.
"They hadn't won one for five years, so to get this one, you could see what it meant to them, you could see what it meant to them when they were celebrating. For us, while we would have loved to have won it, hats off to Wales. What a super effort today, what a super effort for the championship.
"Ironically, we were 16-0 down at half-time and so were they against France. They maybe got a helping hand a couple of times in that match to get back into it but they got back into it and they know how to fight their way to the finish."