When Joe Schmidt eventually finds the time to reflect on his spectacular period at the helm of Irish rugby, the Principality Stadium in Cardiff will not feature prominently on his highlights reel.
The pain of that stinging World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina four years ago shaped everything he has done to this point. If developing strength in depth within his squad was a major driving force since, then arriving at the point where Kieran Marmion became the 36th player to experience game time in this seasons Six Nations should have been a positive.
Unfortunately, there were no such comforts to take from Saturday’s capitulation at the hands of Wales in a performance and result that was every bit as painful as that World Cup exit in 2015. At least, in the cold light of day, the fact that Ireland were shorn five key figures against Argentina in Peter O’Mahony, Johnny Sexton, Paul O’Connell and Jared Payne due to injury, along with the suspended Sean O Brian, offered a explanation, if not an excuse.
Schmidt can derive no such crumb of comfort from this damaging result which not only negates anything salvaged from the French win seven days earlier but only served to highlight even more graphically the shortcomings and vulnerabilities exposed by England on that opening day tournament defeat in Dublin last month.
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