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Joe Schmidt was left with mixed emotions after watching Ireland and Wales play out a thrilling 16-16 draw at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
The result means neither side can win the Triple Crown but, with Wales strongly fancied to win on the day, he can at least draw some solace from the fact that his side put in a big performance and took the game to the visitors for long periods.
However, after watching Ireland storm into a 13-0 lead inside the opening 28 minutes, it took a late Jonathan Sexton penalty to salvage a draw.
Schmidt said that fielding a relatively inexperienced side meant he was worried from the outset, but that the players showed great courage and determination which leaves him feeling confident for the future.
“I did sense that we were a little bit vulnerable, to be honest," he said afterwards.
"We had Dev [Toner] and Rory [Best] back and apart from that it was a very new group.
“When you put those new players in... it’s just going a little bit deeper into your resources.
“While we’ve got real confidence in what we’re developing there, it’s a time thing. There’s guys who I thought acquitted themselves really well today.
“You certainly can’t feel elated, a little bit deflated because we built that 13-0 advantage and I thought it was on the back of some really strong work both sides of the ball.
“I thought our defence was superb in that first half. Particularly the first 30 minutes when we kept them off our line and it wasn’t really until they got the couple of scrums near our line that they managed to get over.
“At the other end I felt that we got down there three or four times in the first half and converted three scores to get that 13 points. So there’s some things to be positive about.
“I thought the way we fought back [from 16-13] is testament to the amount of effort that was going in from the lads.
“Considering the disruptions during the week and a bit of lack of experience I thought it was made up for in the energy levels.
“Wales created a number of opportunities. Both sides just rolled their sleeves up defensively and managed to shut down a couple of opportunities that were created.
“I think the players believed till the end; they kept playing well past the 80-minute mark. That was probably indicative of their belief that they could grab it out of the fire.
“I’m sure both teams are a little bit deflated. I think with the firepower they brought to the table we’re reasonably happy with the way that the lads responded."
Schmidt also revealed that Jonathan Sexton and Tommy O'Donnell will be okay for the French game next weekend, although Keith Earls remains a doubt after showing concussive symptoms.
“Johnny’s fine, he’s just a bit bruised,” he added. “Keith Earls may have suffered a concussion, we just need to follow that up.
"Tommy O’Donnell went off for a head injury assessment but passed it without any problems but at that stage Rhys Ruddock had sort of grown in to the game."
By: Kieran O'Daly