Six Nations: Ireland must deal with 'reality check' says head coach Joe Schmidt
Sobering. A rude awakening. A large dose of reality. Ireland's Six Nations aspirations were hauled back down to earth by England at a bitingly-cold Aviva Stadium.
Joe Schmidt will have to lift his side after admitting that his players had been left physically and emotionally bruised by their first Six Nations defeat in Dublin in six years.
England out-worked and out-thought the defending champions on their own turf and it was the latter that would have disappointed the Ireland head coach the most.
"That is a reality check," said Schmidt. "That is how it's going to be (at the World Cup) and that's why England are, literally, such a big team and I thought they played really well tonight.
"It's hard to take anything away from England and the intensity they brought to the game from the very first line-out.
"It was more a kind of simmering, physical intensity that they collectively delivered, which made it a really suffocating place to be out on that pitch tonight."
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The contrast from the performance Ireland produced to beat New Zealand in November was starkly laid bare by the white-shirted players, who swarmed around their opponents at every opportunity and starved them of the time and space they need to execute their attacking plays.
Instead, Schmidt found himself being reminded of another match against New Zealand at the same stadium when the All Blacks had taken revenge for their defeat in Chicago when they ripped through Ireland just two weeks later.
"It's something that happened two years ago to us against the All Blacks when we got bullied here and you've got to be prepared to give as good as you get and I don't think we did that tonight," admitted Schmidt.
"I know the players are disappointed that we probably didn't have the same physical edge that they did."
England set the tone for their first away win over Ireland since the 2013 Six Nations from the very start as they set an unrelenting pace in the opening minutes.
A quick line-out throw by Jamie George caught the Irish defence unawares and minutes later Jonny May was sliding over in the corner for the opening try.
"That line-out was probably symptomatic of the game," Ireland captain Rory Best added.
"They brought that ferocity and we were just a split second behind and if you're a split second behind at this level then you keep on chasing and you're never ahead of the game, which is what we're good at.
"That went right through the game, we just couldn't ever get back in front of them on the scoreboard in the way we were setting up."
Ireland's Six Nations defence now hangs in the balance, with the players set to return to camp tomorrow to begin preparations for a make-or-break match against Scotland at Murrayfield.
"We've talked a lot about the character of the squad and that sort of character has come off the back of putting wins together," added Best.
"I think we'll see a lot about them next week and I've no doubt that we'll respond.
"We'll have to just take this on the chin, we were bettered by England in probably all facets of the game and we'll get some harsh but constructive feedback from the coaches and we will build into next week.
"We know we're going to have to be better physically and right across the board.
"It's going to be a tough test; Murrayfield is a really hard place to go and win and it will be a huge test for us.
"I think it's important that you spend this little bit of time reflecting on what was a disappointing and uncharacteristic performance from us and you've got to digest that and you've got to use it in the right way."