A record defeat for Ireland in the Joe Schmidt era resulted in the head coach making himself available to the media on a day which is usually hosted by one of his assistants.
Schmidt’s presence behind the microphones today was significant in that sense as he sought to explain the reasons behind Ireland’s humbling at the hands of Eddie Jones’ England.
“It’s an unacceptable result for us,” Schmidt began.
“It was a performance beneath where we’d like to be. It’s a performance beneath where we need to be. The whole group are very, very conscious that we have a short period of time to make sure we accelerate what is part of our progression.
“We did try and have a very rigorous pre-season and the pre-season really ran up until the Portugal camp (last week). We tried to taper a little bit towards the end of the week but, really, we looked flat, we looked slow. We were inaccurate and didn’t adjust when we could see where we were getting trouble.”
There is no doubt that some of Ireland’s performance on Saturday could be explained by the meticulous efforts of pre-season which have predominantly focussed on strength & conditioning. However, such elements of Ireland’s game like tackling, defensive reads and the malfunctioning lineout seem to go beyond the explanation of tired bodies.
“Nothing mitigates losing the way we did. We’re not going to make excuses for that because we know where we are in our progression and we’ve tried to periodise our lead-in to the World Cup.”
Schmidt was keen to stress how other teams are further along in their preparations than Ireland but that ultimately, his side will need to show improvement this weekend when they meet Wales at the Principality Stadium.
“I’m determined to stay realistic in comparison to our opponents, but where we have to be this weekend is a different story and where we have to be the weekend after is another different story. We need to see how much more competitive we can be in the space of a week. And there will be a number of changes for this coming weekend.
“We are still in, what we would determine as a building phase. A clarification phase for selection and once this weekend is over, effectively selections are done. Sunday will be a day of sitting down and making sure we can get the selection as well-balanced as we can make it to get the right people to springboard into that final game against Wales and then onto the World Cup.”