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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Coach & Captain’s Verdict: France 9 Ireland 24

Coach & Captain’s Verdict: France 9 Ireland 24

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Jamie Heaslip, who captained the team following Paul O’Connell’s first half injury, spoke to the media following the 24-9 victory over France in Pool D of the Rugby World Cup.

JOE SCHMIDT –

ON THE MATCH AND THE TEAM PERFORMANCE:

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“I am incredibly proud of our performance. I think the players and the squad have prepared themselves this week for what was always going to be a massive challenge.

“The challenge grew in complication when we lost Johnny Sexton early in the game and then Paul O’Connell just before half-time and then Peter O’Mahony. I think that is 200-plus caps we lost.

“It made it a challenge to make sure the experienced calm heads are still there. Jamie (Heaslip) took over the captaincy and Rory Best and Conor Murray stepped up, as did Rob Kearney. I also thought the players that came on did a fantastic job too.

“Our plan was to get Iain (Henderson) on in that last quarter when bodies were beginning to tire. He came on a little bit earlier and not in the position we planned. But he certainly made an impact and did a great job for us.

“It is hard not to mention the whole team to be honest. We had to fight with everything we had. Maybe we were a little bit wasteful in the first half. We created some good opportunities and didn’t finish them.

“But to be just ahead at half-time gave us some confidence and I was delighted with the way the players came out and clawed their way forward in the second half. It was attritional, but a battle that showed a fair bit of character in the side.”

ON THE INJURIES SUFFERED BY IRELAND:

“It doesn’t look great with Paul (O’Connell): it is an upper hamstring. We are going to have to wait until tomorrow to get that scanned to make sure inflammation has decreased a little bit.

“With Johnny (Sexton), it looked like an adductor to me, but that’s not a learned eye of a medic so we are probably going to get Johnny scanned tomorrow too, along with Peter O’Mahony.

“Peter didn’t seem too bad and we are hopeful with Pete. I think it’s a twist of the ankle or knee, but he was walking pretty well in the changing room and we are hopeful he will be okay.

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. I have spoken briefly with Johnny and he is already talking about next week. So, whether that means he will be playing or not…he’s never short of advice. But it’s Paul who worries me the most of those three.”

ON IAN MADIGAN’S DISPLAY:

“You are always delighted when young guys come through the system and I think if anyone saw Ian away from the game they would see how hard he works. His goal-kicking percentages are very consistent and the confidence he gives players because he is courageous in defence, really helps.

“Apart from one pass that he tried to push too hard on a penalty advantage, when there was an overlap, I thought he was really assured. One thing that helped Ian was the quality of go-forward ball that we had. It allowed him to get on the front foot.”

ON THE INCIDENT INVOLVING SEAN O’BRIEN AND PASCAL PAPE:

“I think he was being held at the time and he swung. I don’t think he was looking directly at the player, but it’s not for me to determine. It wasn’t a closed fist and I would be hopeful. Hopefully it’s not something that impacts on us.

“Considering the dressing room at the moment and the amount of injuries we have, we can ill-afford to lose another player, particularly a player of Sean’s experience and standing in the group.”

JAMIE HEASLIP –

ON HOW THE OTHER PLAYERS STEPPED UP:

“It was quite a calm changing room at half-time and everyone just switched into their role and adapted well to who was going to fit in where. All the guys who stepped in did a great job and that was down to all the hard work that has gone in over the last two years to make sure they are ready when they do come in.

“We always say, ‘fit in first and then add value to the game’. That’s exactly what they did and against France you have to do that. Otherwise they will punish you, which is what they did at times.”

ON THE INTENSITY OF THE MATCH:

“It was right up there. We are looking forward to seeing the numbers. At times, I don’t know what it felt like from your perspective, but for me it felt like a dogfight at times, like a real slug-fest.

“It was blown wide open by two sets of backs trying to play open expansive rugby. The ball was going from end to end at times and I would like to see the ball-in-play time.

“There are a lot of sore bodies in that changing room. Lads are just physically and emotionally drained at the end of it. But from this point on, that is what you have got to give.

“We knew it was going to be tough because there has been nothing between the sides over the last few years. You just have to be patient, calm and focused and take your opportunities when they come.”