February 2, 2019 / 9:17 PM / 16 days ago

Rugby-England loss a reality check for slow starting Irish - Schmidt

DUBLIN, Feb 2 (Reuters) - A resounding opening Six Nations defeat to a stronger England will act as a reality check to Ireland that they need to match up physically and start tournaments better, a frustrated Joe Schmidt said on Saturday.

The 32-20 loss was the third time in four years that Ireland have failed to win their opening Six Nations game, a trait their coach said they had to quickly shake off in a World Cup year where they open Pool A against their likely closest challengers Scotland and hosts Japan.

“I am frustrated that we do tend to start slow and we can’t afford to. Looking further ahead into the World Cup, we’ve got to hit the ground running,” Schmidt said, noting that they started last year’s grand slam winning success slowly as well as the November series that culminated in a win over New Zealand.

“We’ve tended to finish the Six Nations off pretty strong, even going back to the Six Nations we’ve won. We’ve got to be able to start better.”

Schmidt described the defeat — his first ever at home in the Six Nations — as his most disappointing at the Aviva Stadium, particularly when his players who outmuscled the world champion All Blacks three months ago were “physically bettered”.

He singled that out as another part of the game Ireland needed to improve on for the World Cup which, unlike England coach Eddie Jones, Schmidt was very much looking to in his post-match comments.

“It is a reality check and that’s how it’s going to be,” Schmidt said of the physical aspect of the encounter and the fact that his team had rarely played against opponents who had carried so physically and put in so many dominant tackles.

“That’s why England are literally such a big team, the intensity that they brought to that game, it was more a simmering physical intensity. It was a suffocating place to be on that pitch tonight.

“I think it’s something that happened two years ago against the All Blacks, I think we got bullied here and you’ve got to be prepared to give as good as you get. I know the players are disappointed that we didn’t have quite the same physical edge.” (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Clare Fallon)

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