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Ireland young guns give Joe Schmidt big reason to stay positive after New Zealand defeat

By Jonathan Bradley

Despite losing to New Zealand on Saturday, head coach Joe Schmidt said the 21-9 defeat was another example of the growing depth in Irish rugby.

Three key men who had been imperative to the success in Chicago two weeks prior were forced off in the first half - Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Sexton and CJ Stander were all lost to the cause - but their young replacements made an impression.

Josh van der Flier was arguably Ireland's player of the second half while Ulster's Paddy Jackson and Leinster centre Garry Ringrose both filled in admirably for more experienced cogs in the Ireland machine after earlier than anticipated introductions.

"I'm very frustrated but to be honest I am very proud of the effort the guys put in," said Schmidt.

"(It's tough) when you get injuries to the hub... Robbie and Jonathan were immense in Chicago.

"Paddy had to come into 10 without a lot of preparation. Garry Ringrose hasn't had a lot of time or opportunity to play 12 apart from slotting in a couple of times during training. I thought he did a huge job.

"Josh van der Flier was into the game early (too). We're building a bit of depth and some of those guys really stood up for us.

"What better way to build something than to put them up against the best in the world, for them to navigate their way through a match?"

With much being made of the physical edge to New Zealand's play two weeks after losing their long unbeaten record against Ireland, Schmidt questioned whether speaking out on controversial refereeing decisions would be of any benefit.

The hit from Sam Cane that ended Henshaw's evening was punished only by a penalty, although both he and Malakai Fekitoa were cited last night, while Ireland players believed that New Zealand's second and third tries were questionable.

"Being vocal, is that a solution? I don't know," added Schmidt.

"I think you can be vocal through the appropriate channels. I think there's always a risk in being outspoken when you want change.

"You need to have a rapport, you need to engage with people who are making the decisions.

"If you isolate yourself from them then I think you have less access to them and then you potentially have less opportunity to have some sort of discourse to get answers to change.

"It's not something we control and so all we can do is feed back through the appropriate channels.

"I think people will make their own decisions about what happened out there because the images are available to everybody.

"People will make their own assessments, we'll make ours and go through the appropriate channels and that's really as far as we can go in terms of controlling that.

"And then we'll try to get on and control what we can."

For his part, New Zealand's Beauden Barrett was convinced he grounded the ball for his score despite the attempt at a last-ditch intervention from Sexton.

"It could have been embarrassing," said the World Player of the Year who earned man-of-the-match honours for his 11-point haul.

"I was obviously trying to get under the sticks to make the kick easier, but I should have just dotted down to make life easier. I do it every time, but the ball was in the wrong hand. I'm obviously a bit better on the other side.

"The second angle didn't look good but I knew part of the ball had hit the ground on the first angle. It was just a relief, I guess.

"I can understand why the crowd got in behind it because the second angle didn't look good, but I was reasonably comfortable I grounded it."

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