LONDON, October 5- Joe Schmidt said Ireland’s 16-9 win over Italy was not for the faint-hearted but the coach insisted winning ugly was OK as it secured a World Cup quarter-final place.
The New Zealander, who has turned around a demoralised unit in his two years in charge, admitted Italy gave Ireland a tough day at the office in their Pool D clash at the Olympic Stadium.
The Irish go on to play fellow European heavyweights France to decide who tops the table and avoids world champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
“I guess I would take a one point win although I would rather not have a one score game as it is pretty tough on the heart,” said Schmidt.
“But sometimes you got to win ugly and maybe we were lulled into a false sense of security by our two previous games.” Ireland easily beat Canada and Romania earlier.
“Today when Italy did play they gave us very little. Sometimes it is not your day, so in the context of that we are delighted and to have got into the quarter finals.”
Schmidt said the passion shown by the Italians — for whom returning captain Sergio Parisse was outstanding — had been expected.
“the Italians came with a win at all costs attitude and made it very tough for us. But we made it tough for ourselves at times and we have one or two things to sort out.”
Schmidt conceded his side had been pretty flat throughout the game. Keith Earls scored the only try with Jonny Sexton kicking the other points.
– More points –
“I’m always looking to score more,” said Schmidt. “I thought we got into some good positions and didn’t take them.
“Sometimes your intensity drops off and you expect things to happen rather than making them happen.
“That intensity was lacking in us and was thrown back at us by the Italians.”
Schmidt did not criticise flanker Peter O’Mahony’s sin-binning nine minutes from time even though the game’s outcome was then on a knife edge.
O’Mahony earlier pulled off a crunching tackle to pull Italian lock Josh Furno’s legs into touch before he touched down in the second-half.
Skipper and lock Paul O’Connell said the below-par performance should teach the players a lesson ahead of their October 11 game against France. Ireland have played France twice and won twice during Schmidt’s reign.
“It is a timely reminder of where we need to be,” said the 35-year-old O’Connell.
“If you turn over the ball to France with their players you are in trouble.
“We have been very good at our discipline and keeping the ball which we didn’t do today.
“We didnt match their (the fans) enthusiasm today, we will have to next week.
“When you make mistakes it flattens the performance you can’t get into any rhythm.
“To make breaks as we did and turn it over flattens you.”
Italy were delighted with the improved performance but frustrated they could not claim a standout win.
“If we had scored the try (Furno) at that point things could have been very different,” said Parisse.
“Unfortunately after that we were a bit behind in the score. They kicked a lot and didn’t take risks.”
Italy coach Jacques Brunel, who steps down after the tournament, said the team had shown their true worth.
“We proved our level is not that of the previous week (23-18 win over Canada) or against France (a 32-10 defeat) but now we must maintain this level next week,” said Brunel.
“This shows we have the ability to challenge teams. We would, though, like to be a main player in the game.”