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Schmidt blames referee despite domination


Maestri, which should attract the attention of the citing commissioner. Joe Schmidt, the Ireland coach, said Sexton had been “knocked around” before the fly-half departed in the 69th minute.

For a player with an unenviable concussion history, it was concerning to see him so unsteady, though Schmidt stated it was a blow to the sternum that forced his withdrawal. There were no doubts regarding the concussion sustained by the lock Mike McCarthy seven minutes earlier that deprived Ireland of one of their best performers.

Given that Ireland were already missing half their first-choice pack, Schmidt deserves a fair degree of sympathy.

Sympathy has limits, though, particularly when the New Zealander placed much of the blame for the end of their Six Nations title defence squarely on the shoulders of Jaco Peyper, the South African referee. Both Guirado and Maestri should have been sent to the sin-bin, but Schmidt also held him accountable for the manner in which the Irish scrum buckled when props Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani were introduced in the second half. That provided a platform from which Maxime Médard scored the only try of the game on 69 minutes, cutting a line that left Robbie Henshaw on his backside.

“I would say that we’ll be having a close look at the scrums, when Slimani and Ben Arous came on the square scrums went out the window and all sorts of angles came into play,” Schmidt said. “That’s incredibly frustrating and it makes it very difficult to scrum against a team like that.”

Schmidt also bemoaned Peyper’s failure to award a first-half try to Rob Kearney as a result of a Henshaw knock-on that came off his chest.

However, Schmidt pointedly didn’t address how his team failed to put away a wretched France team during a first half that they dominated.

As for France, they head on to Cardiff for what could be the defining game of the Six Nations. Truly, Les Bleus won in spite of themselves. They were rank awful in the first half, but were bolstered by Novès’s use of replacements. But the fact that France could be on course for a grand slam is a damning indictment of the quality of the Six Nations.

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