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Ireland look so far off being on top of the world it seems incredible they were 80 minutes away from going to the top of the world rankings this morning.
They return to Dublin tonight having dropped from third to fourth place, but that’s the least of Joe Schmidt’s worries after his team slumped to the heaviest defeat of his era and a record loss in the history of this old fixture.
They have less than a month’s worth of training and 160 minutes against Wales to fix the myriad of problems exposed by a powerful, quick England side.
The coach has real headaches ahead of the World Cup.
Despite England choosing not to pick a lineout forward in their back-row, Rory Best’s throw collapsed, while the defensive line lacked its customary aggression against a team laced with ball carrying menace.
For most of the players, it was the first game of the season. They trained hard in the heat in Portugal and played in 30 degree heat, but they won’t look for excuses. This was well below what they expect from themselves.
Ross Byrne played well for the first 20 minutes, but as Ireland wilted in the heat the out-half wasn’t immune from the melt-down.
And then there was the ankle injury suffered by Cian Healy who, once again, was a diamond in a rough, rough day at the office.
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Ireland made a very poor start and England looked to make them pay for their repeated errors and exploit their lack of match practice by playing at huge pace from the word go and they went ahead through Owen Farrell’s boot when Cian Healy was punished for collapsing a scrum.
The break appeared to settle Ireland and after clever hands from Rob Kearney got the team on the front-foot.
Jean Kleyn brilliantly stole the ball from an English maul, Bundee Aki carried hard and then they moved the ball wide through Ross Byrne and Kearney for Jacob Stockdale
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