Joe Schmidt urges Ireland fans not to 'lose faith' after disappointing Six Nations
By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 17/03/19 3:11pm
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has urged supporters not to lose faith in the team after their disappointing showing in the Six Nations.
Ireland, who were Grand Slam winners last season, were dominated by champions Wales in Cardiff on Saturday and also lost to England in Dublin on the opening weekend of the tournament.
The tournament has served as a reality check for Ireland, who were flying high coming into it after beating the All Blacks in November.
Schmidt accepts Ireland need to learn lessons from their defeats but is confident his team will improve ahead of the World Cup later this year.
"We would urge the supporters not to lose faith," said Schmidt. "The team will perform in Japan and we'll grow a bit from this.
"England were fifth last year after being back-to-back champions. We haven't been catastrophic but we have not been as good as we needed to be.
"I take my hat off to Warren Gatland. To be 12 years as an international coach and be so competitive? I've done six years and it nearly killed me. They know how to fight their way to the finish."
Jonathan Sexton was crowned World Player of the Year for 2018 but he was not at his best during the Six Nations and admitted to being "unbelievably frustrated".
His half-back partner Conor Murray also failed to reach the high standards he has set for himself in recent years but Schmidt refused to be critical of the pair after losing in Cardiff.
"We've won 23 of our last 26 games," Schmidt said. "We finished third in the Six Nations and once upon a time that wasn't a catastrophe.
"That we have won three of five titles makes this one dip below our standards. It's not as good as we want to be. I'd like to think the genuine supporter is still behind us.
"Jonathan and Conor have had so many days when they have been the hub on which the whole thing has turned. They're not the reason we lost."
The build-up to the game at the Principality Stadium was dominated by whether the stadium would be open or closed for the match.
Wales wanted it closed, due to the rain that was forecast, but teams have to agree to that and Ireland insisted it remain open.
As it turned out, the wet conditions hindered Ireland - who conceded a try in just the second minute to Hadleigh Parkes - as they attempted to chase the game.
"Maybe it was a mistake not to have the roof closed," Schmidt admitted. "In hindsight, what would it have looked like if the roof was closed? I don't know."