Joe Schmidt claims Ireland owed their fans a strong performance at home and was ecstatic to give them exactly that with an impressive win over France.
Sunday’s clash was Ireland’s first at the Aviva Stadium since Round One of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations when England memorably triumphed 32-20 – Schmidt’s first home defeat in the Championship since becoming coach in 2013.
And they bounced back in style as Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Jack Conan and Keith Earls all crossed in a 26-14 triumph that also saw them secure a bonus point.
Victory keeps their 2019 Guinness Six Nations title hopes alive – needing to beat Wales in Cardiff and Scotland to defeat or draw with England at Twickenham in order to defend their crown – leaving Schmidt to salute his players.
“Last time we were at home here we didn’t do ourselves justice and we didn’t give the crowd what they normally get,” Schmidt told Virgin Media One, the official 2019 Guinness Six Nations TV broadcaster in Ireland.
“We were determined to make sure that’s what we delivered and credit to the players, they did that.
“There was so much good in it – but we’re probably just a little bit frustrated at the end. We wanted to attempt to force our way through to get four tries and I felt that once we got them, we buttoned off a little bit.
“There was a bit of malaise around France in the first half because they couldn’t get a foothold and that’s a credit to how our lads kept the pressure on.
“There were a few missed chances but when you miss chances and still get four scores against a French side, you’ve got to be really happy.”
It all sets up what promises to be a nail-biting Super Saturday next weekend – with all three matches being played back-to-back across the day.
And Schmidt insists he is proud of the way his troops have battled back from a disappointing opening to the Championship.
“After what happened in the first weekend [losing at home to England], to still be in the title race says a lot about the character of the team,” he added.
“We’ve never used this many players in a Championship before, we’ve never had to make so many changes early in matches, or just before games, and from that perspective it shows that we’re building.
“We’ve got to build again now because it’s Wales in Cardiff. We’re going to glue ourselves together over the next few days, have a training day on Wednesday or Thursday and we’d love to get a result there.”