Six Nations

Schmidt wants better Irish start against Italy

2017-02-09 19:31
Joe Schmidt (Gallo)

London - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said Thursday his side could not afford another sluggish start when they look to revive their Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome.

Saturday's match at the Stadio Olimpico follows Ireland's 27-22 tournament-opening loss away to Scotland last weekend.

Schmidt's men were 15 minutes late arriving at Murrayfield and the disruption to their regular pre-match routine was all too apparent as an incisive Scotland caught their visitors cold with three tries inside the opening half-hour.

Ireland fought back to lead 22-21 before two penalties from Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw sealed their fate.

Schmidt has urged his players to be more adaptable, saying they could not afford another lacklustre start if they were to keep their title hopes alive.

"I have challenged them for a better start in Italy," said Schmidt. "It's incredibly disappointing the way we started last weekend.

"I don't think it was apathy, there was a bit of anxiety at not having had the full period to warm-up, added the New Zealander, who in November guided Ireland to their first-ever win over the world champion All Blacks.

"Players get anxious, they get very routine-based and I do think it's a challenge for a professional player that they can be adaptable in different circumstances, so they can still start well and cope.

"They (Scotland) scored three tries in those first 25 minutes, then didn't score another try after that.

"And I think that reflects what the team were capable of, but unfortunately then you're chasing things.

"So we've certainly given them that challenge this week, and hopefully we see a better start."

Meanwhile Schmidt has refused to gamble on inspirational fly-half Jonathan Sexton's fitness

Sexton missed the Scotland defeat with calf trouble and Schmidt has resisted the temptation to rush him back for Saturday's match against an Italy side coached by former Ireland fullback Conor O'Shea.

Instead, as was the case at Murrayfield, Paddy Jackson will be the starting outside-half.

Sexton has not played since Leinster's 24-24 draw at French club Castres in a European Champions Cup tie on January 20.

Ireland, however, hope to have the 31-year-old British and Irish Lions international available by the time they face France in Dublin on February 25.

Read more on:    ireland  |  six nations  |  joe schmidt  |  rugby

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Saturday, 03 February 2018
Wales v Scotland, Principality Stadium 16:15
France v Ireland, Stade de France 18:45
Sunday, 04 February 2018
Italy v England, Stadio Olimpico 17:00
Saturday, 10 February 2018
Ireland v Italy, Aviva Stadium 16:15
England v Wales, Twickenham 18:45

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