Opinion: For once, Schmidt got his subs wrong
Ireland's changes couldn't get the team over the line against Wales15:18 Saturday 11 March 2017, 15:18 11 Mar 2017
Joe Schmidt remains one of the best coaches in the world but the failure of those he picked to execute at crucial moments against Wales cost the Irish team dearly.
His use of the bench is usually one of his strengths but a couple of odd moves ultimately ended our chances of playing for a championship on the final day of the season when there was still time to salvage a win in Cardiff.
The Welsh have an excellent defensive line-out and made numerous turnovers at crucial times on Friday night.
Captain or not, every player has a bad game and Rory Best appeared off the pace against Wales. Bar one brilliant turnover at a breakdown - which was stolen back immediately due to a lack of Irish support - he was fairly anonymous around the park. His line-out throwing was off and perhaps the introduction of Niall Scannell midway through the second half should have happened.
Peter O'Mahony also needed to be brought on sooner for two reasons: 1. He's an excellent line-out operator and would have given an extra option to combat a competitive Welsh unit and 2. Jamie Heaslip had one of his worst games in recent memory. CJ Stander should not have been replaced.
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Stander made hard yards every time he got the ball and was taken down by three players on two occasions thus freeing up space elsewhere. He got beyond the gain-line every time he had the ball and unless he was injured, he should not have been taken off.
Ireland's CJ Stander with Alun Wyn Jones of Wales. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie
Of course, the above changes would mean that both captain and vice-captain would have been replaced but with Sexton, Ryan and O'Mahony on the field, there would have been no shortage of leaders.
Furthermore Murray should have been removed at half time. It was obvious he was unable to throw the ball properly after picking up an injury towards the end of the first half after an awkward tackle on George North. Marmion is a more than capable deputy and proved as much when he came on.
Iain Henderson should also have been brought on earlier for Toner. The Ulsterman's explosiveness would have been a welcome addition around the 50 minute mark with Toner struggling to make an impact on the game.
Ireland's historic win over New Zealand in November shows they are a team capable of beating any other on their day. The transition into a team which beats any one, any day is proving harder to become.
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