If you have been paying attention to the news this week, you would have seen multiple potential for Ireland’s record defeat to England at Twickenham last weekend.
From heavy legs to the first hit out of the season and to a drastic lack of confidence in the squad, supporters and pundits alike have been putting their heads together to figure out why Ireland were so poor against Eddie Jones’ side.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt unexpectedly addressed the media on Tuesday before speaking again today at the team announcement.
Tired bodies was one of the contributing factors according to the head coach after their intensive pre-season preparations but ultimately, he said there was no excuse for losing that badly.
Today, when quizzed on the defeat once again, Schmidt offered up a new nugget of information and he believes that some players last Saturday had one eye on the plane to Japan rather than focussing on the task at hand.
“It’s funny because last weekend should have been the most important game that we were thinking of,” Schmidt said.
“To be frank, some of those players weren’t thinking about last weekend, they were thinking about making sure they were on the plane.
“You can’t afford to look after yourself, you can’t afford to be behind the game like we were last week. So it is the most important game for a long time because each week it should be the most important game.”
“I do think we took our eye off the ball. I think we were not quite up for the game as we should have been and we were a bit heavy-legged. I accept the responsibility for that. Sometimes that’s a bit of a character test, can you get over that and still deliver.”
Schmidt has made 11 changes to the team which lost heavily to England and although it was always the plan to make wholesale changes for this weekend’s match with Wales, the head coach confirmed that a number of players wanted another hit-out to get the Twickenham experience out of the system.
“It was always the plan. We’ve got to try and best prepare our 31, whichever player then makes the 31, to have had a bit of game time and have a bit of rhythm. You saw what it was like when a team has had a couple of games and a team hasn’t played. You’re not suddenly at top speed, you need a bit of a hit-out, maybe two hit-outs before you’re up to speed.”
“They (Rory Best & Tadhg Furlong) felt they were a bit off last week and you don’t need to be far off against a good team to suddenly be chasing their tails. They felt it would help their preparation if they got a little bit more time this week and we’d be looking at potentially giving them 25-30 minutes.
“That would be the plan, but at the first contact, the plan can change. That will help build them into the following week and hopefully springboard them beyond that should they be selected.”