Record loss to England gives Ireland food for thought ahead of Rugby World Cup

Ireland captain Rory Best with scrumhalf Conor Murray
Ireland captain Rory Best with scrumhalf Conor Murray
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ENGLAND 57 IRELAND 15

Further injury worries and issues around their lineout have given Ireland plenty to mull over after suffering a record loss, 57-15, to England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Four weeks out from their Rugby World Cup pool opener against Scotland in Japan, Ireland leaked eight tries as Eddie Jones' England ripped them apart.

Scrumhalf Conor Murray suffered a bang to the head, but Irish head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed later he had passed assessments, while prop Cian Healy hobbled off with an ankle injury.

Schmidt later confirmed it was a sprain and hopes remained high that he would be fit to make selection for Japan.

"Cian sprained his ankle, that's clear from the X-ray, but he walked from the pitch so we're hopeful that he'll be okay," said Schmidt.

Ireland prop Cian Healy receives treatment to an ankle injury

Ireland prop Cian Healy receives treatment to an ankle injury

Ireland will face Wales in Cardiff on Saturday which gives them little time to lick their wounds as their warm up games towards the World Cup continue. They will meet Wales again in Dublin on September 7 before the serious business of the World Cup begins with an opening pool game against the Scots on September 22.

By that stage, if not over the next fortnight, Ireland will certainly want to fix their lineout issue. That set-piece facet crumbled under pressure from a hungry English pack eager to prove a point.

Of their 15 throws, Ireland won nine leaving the stats uncomfortable reading. The lost possession on their own ball saw at least three tries scored off the poor precision, from a part of the game Ireland had thrived on in the not so distant past.

Schmidt admitted it was a big score to offer up, but he did not think it dented their confidence going forwards.

"Inevitably it hurts right now. That's a big score to offer up.

"There are some elements of the process that we know really weren't good enough; to miss 34 tackles, to be sluggish in getting ourselves organised as we were.

"I knew we'd be heavy-legged and I knew we wouldn't be perfect today, because we had had a big workload.

"Cardiff will be a bit of a cauldron to go to, but that will be a big challenge for these players.

"It was a litany of disappointing aspects and uncharacteristic inaccuracy from us today, to be honest, that contributed to our own downfall, and we looked dishevelled.

"We didn't get our set-piece going, didn't really scavenge as well as we would have liked. We fell off 34 tackles, 21 in the first half.

"We were underdone, a bit heavy-legged. It doesn't have to be too much of a margin between two teams for one to be a bit sluggish and the other to be on the top of their game. I know we can get better than that, I know we have to.

"The players will take responsibility to do everything they can to turn it around next week and build from that.

"Because what really matters is in four weeks' time, for the World Cup opener against Scotland."

That latter part was echoed by captain and hooker Rory Best, especially around the lineout issues.

Best said: “I think it’s really frustrating when your set-piece doesn’t go the way you planned. There’s a big difference between training, when you try to put as much pressure on as you can, and then coming up against a lineout defence that’s one of the best in the world.

“We won the first one and it went well, but then they competed on the second and I think we just got within ourselves a little bit and everyone got a little bit nervous and they kept coming after us there. There’s no doubt that it affected our game.

“Yes, I think it’s fixable,” added Best. “When you look at our set-piece over the last while, it’s been a strength for us, something we launch off. Obviously, that horrific day in Cardiff [during this year's Six Nations], it malfunctioned a little bit and that was disappointing.

“It was disappointing today and we’re big enough to wear that. We’ve had a few iffy days before and come back again the next week against some of the best teams and performed really well. I think we have a good process there.

“Nothing’s quite like the pressure when you get into a game. It will either confirm that, yes, you’re in a really good spot or else you go, ‘Oh shit, we’re not quite where we want to be.’ Today proved that we’re not quite where we want to be.

“It wasn’t good enough but I know we can be a lot better than that.”