Schmidt: 'It's taken a while but we've got our rhythm back'

Joe Schmidt believes that his Ireland team has got its mojo back but the head coach has added the rider that the last Six Nations appointment of the year, away to Cardiff next Saturday, will be a much more complicated affair.

Schmidt: 'It's taken a while but we've got our rhythm back'

Joe Schmidt believes that his Ireland team has got its mojo back but the head coach has added the rider that the last Six Nations appointment of the year, away to Cardiff next Saturday, will be a much more complicated affair.

Ireland breezed to a 26-14 win against the French on Sunday afternoon, the concession of two late second-half tries masking the ease with which a side that had struggled through the first three rounds of the tournament did as they pleased for long stretches of the afternoon.

Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt is interviewed after the game. Photo: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt is interviewed after the game. Photo: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ireland claimed tries from Rory Best, Jonathan Sexton, Jack Conan and, after the break, Keith Earls but left a mountain of other points behind with Cian Healy and Garry Ringrose both denied five-pointers on the say-so of the TMO. Correctly.

Ireland weren't perfect by any means but this was so much better than anything they had offered since last November's defeat of the All Blacks here in Dublin, even if the French were appalling and the home side left a cricket score after them.

“They are always a frustration,” said Schmidt of the chances spurned, “but what did impress me is that if we did miss one ... Garry Ringrose might (score that) ten times over and he just tried to promote the ball. If he'd kept it there he would have been over. Those small margins.

“It was the same with Cian (Healy), it was an incredibly smart decision but he was a bit unlucky. I was frustrated about the three scrum penalties we got and then it looked like the ball came out the tunnel. It didn't come out the scrum.

“They cleared their lines and then Jordan (Larmour) got through and if we'd gone a bit more direct from that we might have had more success. Getting the four tries and the bonus point was what we needed to stay right in the mix. We're one point behind England and two behind Wales.

“It's taken a while but we got our rhythm back today.”

The scale of Ireland's dominance in the opening half was astonishing. The home side enjoyed 89% of the territory and found themselves camped for long stretches in the French 22 where they were frustrated by some errors and, as Schmidt alluded to, a litany of French penalties.

“I don't think I've ever seen a team control forty minutes like we did in that first-half. The French got knocked back early and it was hard then for them to get on the front foot. We kept that pressure on for 40 minutes and it spoke volumes to our energy and intensity and cohesion even if we left a few behind.

“We brought to that Rory's try which was fantastic and for Johnny to score off a nice crisp back play that gives confidence. And then for Jack Conan to get around the corner as he does so well, carrying in dynamic fashion, it finished off a really important 40 minutes.”

Ireland's Jack Conan celebrates his try with Jordan Larmour. Photo: ©INPHO/James
Ireland's Jack Conan celebrates his try with Jordan Larmour. Photo: ©INPHO/James

Retaining the title they claimed with a Grand Slam last year is still a long odds notion. For that to happen, Ireland will need to hope that Scotland can win at Twickenham for the first time since the Battle of Bannockburn and they can post a win in Cardiff.

The latter isn't as unlikely as the former but, with Wales going to for the title and a Grand Slam of their own in front of such an impassioned support in the Principality Stadium, Ireland will do well to come away with a fourth win in their five games.

“We just want to finish as well as we can in the Six Nations and it is less about where Wales are,” said Schmidt. “We know if we win we go past them on the ladder but it is just another game. As boring as that is, you can't think too much about the championship in a six-day turnaround.

“We will think about Wales when we get back together tomorrow and when we train. We have got to be ready. It is a very truncated week for us and it is a lot less about Wales and about ourselves and being ready to go.”

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