Ireland's Joe Schmidt concedes Six Nations title after defeat in Wales

Ireland's Joe Schmidt concedes Six Nations title after defeat in Wales

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will announce his squad for the New Zealand tour on April 19 and there will be plenty of candidates treading the boards on Friday. The championship is always incredibly tight.

"I think certainly all week, we were saying that we knew that Wales were a real quality side", added the Ulsterman. But North was a lot more solid defensively against Ireland and two clinical finishes took his Test try tally to 30 in 68 games.

Ireland immediately responded, and with Johnny Sexton in splendid form, they pinned back Wales with constant attacks.

Where were these margins?

"We are no longer in the hunt for the championship, but there is still a lot for us to play for in what has been, as we expected at the start, a very competitive Six Nations", said Schmidt. But when that happens close to the line, that's sometimes what happens.

First it was Jonathan Sexton going off for an Head Injury Assessment, then it was Conor Murray finishing the first half with one working arm, and finally Sexton heading to the sin-bin when he got caught killing the ball after a last-ditch tackle on Davies.

The second-half performance against Scotland was not up to scratch.

In the 10 minutes he was off the pitch, Zebo moved into out-half and the sight of him smiling and joking with Wayne Barnes as he prepared to get the second half underway suggested he was not fazed by the extra responsibility.

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Johnny Sexton is one point away from becoming the seventh player to reach 300 points in the Five/Six Nations, and the second Irishman after Ronan O'Gara.

With about 10 minutes left to play, Ireland were driving towards the Welsh line and looked set to cross over for a try that would have given them the chance to retake the lead.

"For us it is about tidying up bits and pieces rather than saying "Here is a list of things we need to do better". Tadhg Furlong 4. Devin Toner 5.

Liam Williams waves to the Welsh supporters.

"We felt it was important the same group of players had the opportunity to go out and perform", Howley said.

Sexton opened the scoring after Wales scrum-half was punished for a high tackle on Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw, and Wales continued to not help themselves as fly-half Dan Biggar saw a pass intercepted by Keith Earls and the visitors again motored up field.

Following their defeat to Scotland, the Irish cannot now win either the Grand Slam or the Triple Crown, but they can stop England from achieving both and the overall title, if Scotland fails to do this.

"It's hugely frustrating when you get over the line and get the ball down and a player who has no material effect gets sanctioned - correctly - for making a mistake", he said.