LONDON (Reuters) - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt lambasted his players for missing 34 tackles and looking sluggish in defence after they were thrashed 57-15 by England at Twickenham on Saturday.
It was a dismal World Cup warm-up performance by Ireland off the back of an underwhelming Six Nations campaign this year which they went into as favourites.
“There’s a malaise about the team, you can’t blame individuals,” Schmidt said, tempering his remarks by saying he had expected a heavy-legged performance given Ireland are further behind in their preparation than other teams.
The Ireland coach did not sugarcoat his assessment of flyhalf Ross Byrne’s performance, who failed to make the most of an opportunity in the absence of Johnny Sexton.
“It was tough for Ross, you want some set-piece ball on the front foot and Ross didn’t get that opportunity, it was also a tough day defensively with some big men coming down his channel,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt also complained about a breakdown in backroom communications that saw scrumhalf Conor Murray return to the field after passing a head injury assessment, contrary to pre-game plans to replace him shortly after the half.
Ireland will be anxious about the fitness of prop Cian Healy who limped off with an ankle injury.
“Cian sprained his ankle, he’s had an X-ray, he walked from the pitch so that’s a good sign,” Schmidt said.
A listless Ireland side offered little in attack other than tries by Jordan Larmour and Bundee Aki, and their set-piece was wayward with the lineout unusually chaotic.
“That is not up to the standard that we set ourselves. It is hard to describe it without using a lot of profanity,” captain Rory Best said.
Ireland have less than a month before what should be a testing World Cup opener against Scotland in Yokohama, albeit their celtic rivals have been less than convincing in their own warm-up games.
Schmidt said he was likely to bring in a host of experienced players such as Sexton, James Ryan and Robbie Henshaw for next week’s game in Cardiff, where Ireland can expect a raucous atmosphere in Wales coach Warren Gatland’s last home fixture.
Reporting by Lawrence White, editing by Ed Osmond