It was probably the wake-up call Ireland needed. The cliche goes that champions have to win ugly, and there certainly was nothing pretty about how Ireland took the four points on offer at the Olympic Stadium today. It was a performance littered with mistakes and ill-discipline, and the Italians never let Ireland get comfortable.
Speaking in the post-match press conference, Schmidt admitted that the team were too relaxed after facile wins over Canada and Romania:
I think maybe we got lulled into a false sense of security over the last couple of weeks. We were able to get some scoreboard pressure early in the games and it meant our opponents had to play a little more.
The Ireland head coach admitted that sometimes it's good to 'win ugly', and perhaps it's no bad thing that Ireland were tested a bit more looking ahead to games against France and either Argentina or New Zealand. Ireland managed to secure their place in the quarter-finals with this win, but for now Schmidt will take a day to analyse what went wrong against Italy:
I think sometimes when you score early in a game, particularly when there’s an expectation that people have around the game that you should win it, sometimes I think your intensity can drop off a little bit, you can expect things to happen instead of making them happen.
I think we were probably a little bit guilty of that today. We didn’t play with the same intensity that we needed to and that intensity was thrown back at us by an Italian team that was inspired today.
One suspects that it'll be a fierce week in training ahead of the final pool game against France - one that will decide who tops the pool and avoids New Zealand. Schmidt, for his part, was playing down expectations against the French - getting into the Irish mindset of claiming they are favourites:
The French have high expectations, both from the team and the media. I think it’s going to be incredibly hard for us to beat them next week. They are armed with some more weaponry then perhaps what we saw today and I think we have to be more accurate than we were today.
Physically, they have some players that are very, very powerful and that’s going to make things difficult for us as well.
I have watched their games but I’ll be doing a lot of analysis over the next 24 to 48 hours and we’ll come up with a plan, hopefully we’ll be more accurate in putting it in place.
Roll on Cardiff.