One commentator suggested the performance threw up more questions than answers as Joe Schmidt got his career as Ireland coach off to a winning start with a 40-9 win over Samoa at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The former Leinster boss was the first to acknowledge that stiffer tests will come against Australia, in Dublin this Saturday, and world champions New Zealand, at the Aviva a week later.
But Ireland could only beat what was put in front of them and they did just that last Saturday against an injury hit Samoan side that finally capitulated in a one way second half.
For the record, debutant Dave Kearney scored two tries, one of them set up by his brother Rob.
Peter O’Mahoney, Fergus McFadden and Sean O’Brien also crossed the Samoan line on a night that marked the return to international action of Brian O’Driscoll and captain-elect Paul O’Connell.
With Ulster youngster Paddy Jackson making an impression as he kicked 15 points in the absence of the injured Jonny Sexton, it was a happy if relieved Schmidt who addressed the media afterwards.
Admitting that he was nervous ahead of his debut as a coach at this level, Schmidt was mindful that Ireland will need to up the ante against Australia this coming weekend.
“We’ll get a reality check when we look at it again. Too many line-breaks from the Samoans. And we can’t afford to do that against Australia. If they get on top they are extremely dangerous,” Schmidt said.
“If we open up too many options for them, they will take them. We are very, very aware of the threat Australia pose.
“If someone manages to find Israel Folau, or Adam Ashley-Cooper next week, then we will find ourselves in trouble.
“We worked hard enough but we offered too much ball back to them. We made three times as many tackles as them in the first half.
“Going forward to next week and the week after I don’t think we can afford to be that untidy with the ball.”
Lions legend O’Driscoll marked his return to action with a typical performance in the center of the Irish midfield that included some great attacking play.
And Leinster colleague Fergus McFadden, set up for his try by Dricco, had no doubts about his teammate’s input to Irish sport, never mind the rugby team, in O’Driscoll’s final season as a professional.
McFadden said, “We’ve got to cherish these last few months with Brian, big time. It’s been a pleasure playing with him and obviously hopefully I’ll play with him plenty for the rest of the season.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do next year; he keeps his cards pretty close to his chest with everyone, not just with the public.
“But it’s been a pleasure, playing with him for both Leinster and Ireland. In my opinion he’s the greatest Irish sportsman of all time.
“Regardless of what he does this year I think he is already at the top of the list for Irish sportsmen. So it’s been amazing to play alongside someone of that level, and long may it continue for the rest of the season. It would be great to have some silverware to back it up as well.”
Ireland coach Schmidt was also happy with the contribution of his icons O’Driscoll and O’Connell in a new look side.
“I spoke to Brian after the game and he felt he could have gone the whole 80, but the tank was starting to run dry after 55,” Schmidt said.
“He was relatively happy to see Ian Madigan heading his way, but he really enjoyed himself. It wasn’t vintage Dricco but it’s a step towards it.
“And Paul really enjoyed it, enjoyed stretching his legs. I thought he brought real value off the bench.”
Ulster star Jackson came in for praise from his new coach.
“I thought Paddy was really assured. Our kicking out of the hand wasn’t as good as it could have been at times. We’ll have to kick better out of hand across the board against Australia,” Schmidt said.
“But Paddy did marshal everyone really well and it was an assured performance from Paddy. It’s not easy to come into that mix and control things like that, but I think we saw the evidence of his club form helping him settle.”
Sexton Ready for Aussie Return
JONNY Sexton, named as Player of the Year by Ireland’s rugby writers on Monday night, is a certainty to come straight back into the international team for Saturday’s Aviva Stadium clash with Australia.
Sexton has recovered from the hip injury that kept him out of the win over Samoa and is available for selection along with new captain Paul O’Connell.
But Ulster flanker Chris Henry is out for at least six weeks with a hamstring injury picked up in the first-half of the Samoa game.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admitted, “We would have to strongly consider Jonny coming back in. He does bring that experience and that quality that we know he has.
“He wasn’t the starting Lions out-half for no reason. But I’d have to take my hat off to Paddy Jackson. I think that he’s had to do it pretty tough at times, being thrown in as a very young man and having to direct some very impressive men around the park.
“I think he said during the week about telling Paul O’Connell where he needs to be and feeling a little bit intimidated himself. I feel the same intimidation.”
Tommy Bowe has been declared fit for the Australia game despite leaving the Aviva Stadium on crutches last Saturday, while Leinster’s Shane Jennings has been added to the squad as a replacement for the injured Henry.
Sports Shorts The Real McCoy
RACING: Champion jockey Tony McCoy hit the record books with career win 4,000 when he guided JP McManus’ Mountain Tunes home at Towcester last Thursday. “It was just amazing, it couldn’t have worked out any better. To do it for Jonjo O’Neill and the McManuses is brilliant as they’ve been so good to me,” McCoy said . . .
ATHLETICS: Irish discus and shot putt thrower Tomas Rauktys has been banned for two years after being found guilty of doping offenses . . .
RUGBY LEAGUE: Ireland were hammered 50-0 by Australia in their final World Cup game at Thomond Park on Saturday . . .
RUGBY: Ireland are up from eighth to sixth in the new world rankings after their win over Samoa.
Soccer Shorts Coyle Angered
WIGAN manager Owen Coyle angrily denied claims that he dropped James McClean for Sunday’s game against Yeovil because the Irish winger refused to wear a poppy on Remembrance Sunday. “The only reason James McClean didn’t play today because he was injured. He would certainly have been involved if he was fit. I’m never evasive and always up front, but I’m actually embarrassed that I’m getting asked that question in this day and age.” . . .
ROBBIE Brady and Ciaran Clark are out of Friday night’s friendly against Latvia with injury, while Anthony Pilkington remains a doubt and will receive treatment in a knee injury at his club Norwich before a final decision is made on his availability on Thursday . . .
ST. Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Killian Brennan has been named the PFAI Player of the Year. Dundalk’s Richie Towell won the Young Player of the Year award while Dundalk’s Stephen Kenny, was awarded Manager of the Year . . .
SLIGO Rovers striker Danny North has been named the Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month for November . . .
SHAMROCK Rovers have signed Simon Madden, Conor Kenna and Luke Byrne as manager Trevor Croly rebuilds for next season . . .
FORMER international Seamus McDonagh has replaced Alan Kelly as goalkeeping coach with the Ireland squad . . .
CORK City youngster Alan Browne has agreed to sign for English League One side Preston North End in January . . .
IRELAND winger Stephen Hunt has joined Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town on a short-term contract . . .
RODDY Collins has declared an interest in becoming Derry City’s new manager.