'I was pulling my hair out and asking what they were doing'

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The Independent Online

There were sheepish looks but no excuses from the Welsh camp after the comprehensive defeat inflicted on them by Ireland at Lansdowne Road yesterday.

The Wales caretaker coach, Scott Johnson, said afterwards: "We let ourselves down a little bit. We set ourselves high standards and I thought that in the first 20 minutes we showed great intent."

The Australian refused to use the off-field distractions following the departure of his predecessor Mike Ruddock as an excuse for the heavy defeat. "Other people can worry about what's been going on off the pitch," said Johnson, who has been put in temporary charge until the end of the Championship.

He did admit that the early loss of his fly-half Stephen Jones with a dead leg had a significant effect on the match.

"He was the last bloke I would have wanted to replace after 20 minutes and we were disjointed after that," Johnson said. "He is a big player and was a big loss."

Jones was replaced by Gavin Henson, who was on the bench as cover for outside-half and inside centre, but the Ospreys scene stealer looked more than a little ring-rusty when he joined the fray to a chorus of boos from the majority of the crowd.

"The intention was never to bring him on for as long as we had to today, but sometimes that is the way things work out," Johnson said. "But in hindsight we would not have done anything differently."

Wales were still in it, on paper at least, at half-time, but they quickly lost ground on their opponents after the interval. "There was plenty of endeavour out there," said their coach. There were also plenty of errors and Johnson, in typical fashion, accepted responsibility for that.

"The skill thing is a coaching aspect and as coach I have to look at myself," he said. "We put ourselves under pressure.

"There were times when I was pulling my hair out and asking myself what they were doing in this or that situation."

Ireland's coach, Eddie O'Sullivan, was pleased with his team's performance. "I thought we defended superbly, especially in the first 15 or 20 minutes when I thought Wales were outstanding. They really made us work."

His captain, Brian O'Driscoll, added: "We just didn't have the ball in that opening spell, but our defence was consistent."

On Marcus Horan's injury, O'Sullivan said: "He is fine. He has gone to hospital for X-rays but he should be OK for the Scotland match in a fortnight."

Horan was injured when the Wales prop Gethin Jenkins caught him at a ruck. "I have no problem with the incident," O'Sullivan said.

"He was trying to clear the ruck and just happened to catch him with his shoulder."

On the loss of Jones, O'Sullivan said: "Stephen Jones is big player for Wales as a tactical half-back and it might have taken the edge off their game, but I don't think the outcome would have changed if he had stayed on."