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Ireland 28-22 Scotland: Irish still have much to tackle

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

If Ireland need a reminder of the step up required in the weeks to come, they need only take a look at the 21 tackles they missed against Scotland on Saturday.

Earlier on Saturday, Australia missed the same number against New Zealand and conceded five tries. Ireland shipped three against the Scots and, having conceded the same number in Cardiff a week previously, there is now a legitimate concern about the defence.

A better team than Scotland would have won in Dublin - Vern Cotter's visitors have a great ability to create opportunities and then find new ways of butchering them.

Yet, they managed to breach the Irish rearguard on three occasions having dominated possession and territory.

Joe Schmidt was happy to have seen his squad tested. Scotland asked questions and caused Ireland problems. Schmidt was less enthused by the way his side dealt with them.

A combination of a strong set-piece and some Ian Madigan magic saw Ireland through and there is plenty for the coach to digest as he considers his next move.

In two weeks' time, the front-liners return to the fold against Wales and the standards should improve, but after keeping things tight in the Six Nations, Schmidt doesn't want the leaky rearguard becoming a habit.

It was noticeable that Ulster-bound Les Kiss was leading the half-time team-talk and one expects that the Australian will be working hard in the weeks to come.

Asked if tackling and the defence was a concern, Schmidt said: "It probably was. We conceded three tries in the Six Nations, we conceded three tries last weekend and three tries this week.

"I thought last week a couple of tries were untidy and it was at the end of the game. The tries on Saturday, I thought Scotland played really well. They put the pressure on and we did miss tackles and once they were in behind you they didn't say 'oh, we'll let you off the hook'. They really went for us.

"It's nothing we didn't expect, but I think having been in the environment now for a couple of players who hadn't played for a while or were new to the game, they understand a little bit more about it now."

In particular, Gordon D'Arcy and Dan Tuohy will be shifting uncomfortably as they approach the review after being guilty of a number of glaring misses, but they weren't alone.

Having used 29 players so far, the coach will have a clearer picture in his mind about his eventual squad, with just one more match before he picks his final 31.

This exercise allowed him to look at Simon Zebo in the No 15 shirt, re-introduce the men who finished the Six Nations in possession of the wing jerseys, take a look at Madigan and give Jack Conan and Nathan White debuts.

Zebo went well enough to suggest he should make the cut, but both Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald were underwhelming and were shown up by Dave Kearney's sparkling cameo.

Madigan probably did enough to ensure his place in the No 22 jersey, while Conan looked comfortable, even if his time may come in the next World Cup cycle.

Sean O'Brien was outstanding on the deck, but never got going above ground. However, he and Jared Payne were the class acts in Ireland's display, while Paul O'Connell's performance off the bench was encouraging.

Ireland scored first through Chris Henry, but the Scots levelled through a well-worked Blair Cowan try by half-time and captain Henry Pyrgos put his side in front shortly after.

As ever in difficult situations, Ireland went to their maul, which allowed Sean Cronin peel off and crash over, before a combination of Madigan's creative play and Kearney's injection of speed set up Zebo's try.

And yet Scotland came back again, with Peter Horne making the most of a poor Fitzgerald kick and some indecisive defending from D'Arcy and Conan to score.

Ruaridh Jackson's conversion nudged Cotter's side in front, but a moment of pure class from Madigan settled the affair as he delivered a peach of a cross-kick for Fitzgerald to gallop over.

Ireland: S Zebo (P Jackson 78); T Bowe, J Payne, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; I Madigan, I Boss (E Reddan 66); D Kilcoyne (M Bent 61), S Cronin (R Strauss 61), M Ross (N White 52), D Toner, D Tuohy (P O'Connell 55), J Conan (J Murphy 64), C Henry, S O'Brien.

Scotland: R Jackson; S Lamont, R Vernon, P Horne, T Visser; G Tonks, H Pyrgos (capt, S Hidalgo-Clyne 66); R Grant (G Reid 45), F Brown (R Ford 52), J Welsh (M Cusack 47 temp), J Hamilton (R Harley 55), G Gilchrist, B Cowan (J Barclay 58), H Blake, D Denton.

Referee: P Gauzere (France)

Man of match: Sean O'Brien (pictured)

Attendance: 31,780

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