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Joe Schmidt left with much to ponder in aftermath of Wales defeat

Ireland 10 Wales 16

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Published 31/08/2015

Paul O’Connell waves goodbye to the Aviva
Paul O’Connell waves goodbye to the Aviva
Wales coach Warren Gatland
Action from Saturday's encounter against Wales

As much as selecting the correctly balanced World Cup squad was uppermost in Joe Schmidt's thoughts in the aftermath of Saturday's defeat to Wales, there is plenty more for him to digest after he hangs up on the final phone-call.

In what was Paul O'Connell's last game in green at the Aviva, Ireland tightened up their defence after shipping 21 missed tackles and three tries against Scotland, but it was their discipline that cost them against Wales. Their work at the breakdown didn't help.

But perhaps Warren Gatland's stinging critique of Ireland's attacking game will be of most concern to the Ireland coach as he contemplates his side to face England next weekend.

The Wales coach said he felt his side hadn't been troubled by Ireland over the course of the game and, while Schmidt wasn't in agreement, there are certainly things to address when his team had ball in hand.

Ireland's coach was more upset at his side's lack of discipline. They heard the sound of Craig Joubert's whistle more frequently on Saturday than in any other match during the New Zealander's tenure.

He wasn't entirely happy with the South African, or his assistants, but they will see him again in four weeks' time when he takes charge of the pool match against Romania at Wembley, so they had better get used to his interpretations.

While the focus of the coming days outside the squad will rest on who's in and who's out, the real business at Carton House will lie in ironing out the creases in time for the World Cup.

Schmidt is expected to name a strong side to face England at Twickenham and won't want to see a repeat of the problems his side encountered here.

Ireland's World Cup schedule means that successive defeats would be a distant memory by the time they meet France in October, with Italy's hammering at the hands of Scotland helping to ease any fears about progressing from Pool D.

While the referee's performance didn't help Schmidt's mood, Gatland's pointed criticism of Ireland's attacking game stung too.

"I don't think Ireland play a lot of rugby," the Wales coach said. "They have been incredibly successful. I thought they were really narrow at times, a lot of players quite narrow.

"When they play that game effectively, using one-off runners effectively, and get some success from cross-kicks. That's what they are good at doing. They are good at pressurising you and forcing you into turnovers and building the score."

Despite dominating territory and possession, Ireland only made one clean break and kept the off-loads to a minimum once again.

"We need to get some cohesion, we were described as narrow and we probably were at times," he said Schmidt.

"We certainly ran out of width in our attack, although we could have scored twice in the opening 10 minutes with some pretty good width.

"But, when you don't convert those early opportunities and concede a penalty count of 6-0, then you're bound to come under pressure.

"We'll try to balance those selections and see how we go."

And yet, Ireland were a video referee's decision away from winning the game, although Sean Cronin didn't ground the ball on his final surge over the line.

Leigh Halfpenny knocked over a first-half penalty before more indiscipline and a creaky lineout handed the visitors field position from which they mauled their way over at the third attempt.

The eventual man of the match Justin Tipuric came up with the ball and Halfpenny converted, but Johnny Sexton pulled a penalty back before Iain Henderson barrelled his way over in injury time.

Sexton levelled the scores before half-time, but Ireland's ill-discipline allowed Halfpenny to win the game, with their late surge proving too little, too late.

IRELAND: R Kearney; D Kearney, L Fitzgerald, R Henshaw, K Earls (F Jones 64); J Sexton (P Jackson 64), C Murray (E Reddan 64); J McGrath (D Kilcoyne 61), R Strauss (S Cronin 51), N White (T Furlong 57); I Henderson, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony (S O'Brien 52), J Murphy, J Heaslip

WALES: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts (H Amos 61), G North; Dan Biggar (R Priestland 64), R Webb (G Davies 64); G Jenkins (P James 47), K Owens (S Baldwin 55), T Francis (A Jarvis 54); B Davies (L Charteris 54), AW Jones (capt) (J King 73); D Lydiate (J King 51 - 61), , J Tipuric, T Faletau.

Match rating: 6/10

Man of the match: Graham Kitchener (above). An immense presence around the park and at the lineout.

Referee: C Joubert (South Africa)

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