Joe Schmidt: Ireland coach knows squad can deliver physically and mentally in wake of Six Nations loss to England

Ireland's Bundee Aki with Manu Tuilagi
Ireland's Bundee Aki with Manu Tuilagi
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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admitted he was impressed with England’s performance as they ended back-to-back Grand Slam hopes at the first hurdle.

The English cut Ireland off at the source and went on to secure an impressive 32-20 win at the Aviva Stadium, picking up five match points in the first Dublin success in six years.

And while there will be some aspects Schmidt will reflect on over the weekend ahead of this morning’s review with coaches and players - he is not going to dwell on the loss too long.

Ireland go to current Championship leaders, Scotland, who also picked up five match points in a comfortable home win over an improving Italy.

Schmidt knows the championship is not yet beyond reach, but it has been made considerably difficult and the Scots will now fancy their chances against the World Number Two ranked Nation.

As far as the defeat to England, Schmidt said: “I was impressed with England tonight.

“There is a danger they will get better (in terms of the race for the championship).

“They are playing really well to the limit. It makes it very suffocating and they’ve got the firepower such as Billy Vunipola.

“To be able to get solutions there, one of our solutions was to go in behind those big men and we couldn’t quite get access there.

“There are only so many places you can go on that 70-by-100-metre bit of grass.

“As far as England are concerned, we will take a quick look back at them but for us now, it is all about Scotland and we will try to springboard our way in from there.”

In terms of areas of weakness exposed by the English, Schmidt added: “We’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where we are without suddenly saying one game has completely undone us.

“One of my frustrations is we haven’t tended to start competitive campaigns overly well.

“That, for me, is a bit of a concern looking further ahead. I mentioned November. I mentioned France last year and how we built our way through the tournament.

“I like to think that we can demonstrate we can take a step up next week and, beyond that, we can demonstrate how we can get back into the tournament because it is a very tough championship.

“If you are a little bit off the mark, any team can knock any team over. Even for us, the last time we went to Murrayfield, we didn’t get off the bus and we were 21-5 down at half-time.

“On the back of that experience, we ended up beating England at the end of that Six Nations and getting second.

“I think it would be a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction to believe, on the back of one poor performance, we’ve suddenly lost all the progress and all the confidence we’ve tried to build over the last number of years.”

For a team which has enjoyed so much success in recent years, Schmidt admits it will also be a huge mental challenge for the players - not just a physical one - moving into the week ahead.

“There are a lot of guys hurting at the moment and they will be looking for a way back in and I think the only was back in is to roll our sleeves up, show that resilience mentally that we are going to be have to be able demonstrate next Saturday.

“It is kinda what I said, it is not just about physically getting up and having that vibrancy, it is about mentally being attuned and ready to go and retaining the confidence that we should have.

“As I have said we are human and there are times that human beings without ever being complacent, if you assume anything in this world of high performance sport, assumption will undo you.

“We couldn’t assume we could rock up and just deliver a performance that they would accept.

“They accepted nothing from us and gave us as little as possible and that’s a credit to them.”

He added: “With a game as attritional as that one, you’ve really got to allow sufficient recovery time.

“As much as anything, it is about getting our confidence back, getting mentally re-aligned, so that we can go out and deliver in a lot more positive manner, in a physically confrontational manner next week.”