Sean McMahon reporting from Shizuoka.
For as long as Joe Schmidt has been the head coach of Ireland, this has been a side which has placed discipline at the very top of the list of prerequisites for any performance.
In the build-up to Ireland’s 19-12 loss to Japan at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on Saturday evening, the role of Australian referee Angus Gardner was placed into the spotlight due to his previous performance in the Six Nations where Schmidt’s side fell foul to his whistle.
In that defining game in Cardiff, where Wales secured the Grand Slam against the 2018 holders, Ireland conceded 11 penalties and Schmidt referenced this in the days building up to Saturday’s encounter.
This time around, Ireland conceded nine penalties to Japan’s six and although the head coach didn’t openly criticise the Australian referee in the post-match press conference, it was clear that there were a number of decisions he was unhappy with.
“Yeah, we’ll go back and have a look at it (penalties conceded),” Schmidt said.
“I certainly understand the frustrations of some of the players and in discussing things with them based on what I saw on the monitor, it’s not too dissimilar from the last time we had this referee. We’ll go back through the official channels and make our comments to the refereeing body.”
The role of Gardner in Shizuoka was not the reason Ireland lost their second match of this Rugby World Cup and Schmidt will know that there are many improvements needed ahead of their final two games against Russia and Samoa.