Dominant Ireland get some of their rhythm back - Schmidt

Saturday will be the last Six Nations game for Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt- for now

Saturday will be the last Six Nations game for Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt- for now

Defending champion Ireland was close to full strength after making seven changes to the lineup facing France in Six Nations rugby on Sunday at Lansdowne Road.

Schmidt, who has also guided the Irish to second in the world rankings during his tenure, admitted he had rarely seen a side dominate as the Irish had in the first-half.

While the second half petered out somewhat, a Keith Earls try was enough to give Ireland the bonus point victory.

"Getting the four tries, getting the bonus point, that was what we needed to stay right in the mix", Schmidt stated ahead of next weekend's clash with Wales in Cardiff.

The 36-year-old hooker said Saturday that "it's fairly certain" this year's World Cup in Japan will be the end of an global career that has now yielded 116 caps.

The hooker was visibly emotional during the national anthems, and barring a pair of late French tries to put a bit of gloss on the scoreline, it was the flawless afternoon for the Ulster man.

The hosts only had to wait five more minutes for another as they began to pick off the overwhelmed visitors at will with replacement Conan giving his side a 19-0 halftime lead that could easily have been twice that with a little more accuracy.

'I don't think we'll talk too much about the psychology of them.

"New Zealand have not played for a while, but I would say they (Ireland) are the team to beat at the moment". It would be no mean feat in the Six Nations, and games can be decided on small margins and decisions. But on the other hand, it was a great way to go out.

"We've never used this many players in a championship before".

"We were up against a good French side and they needed to get something out of the game", said Schmidt.

Anscombe's Ireland opposite number, Johnny Sexton, started the mind games when he questioned whether Wales thought they were invincible after their winning run.

Tries went abegging as Garry Ringrose knocked on when he was tackled and prop Cian Healy did similarly as he went to put downward pressure on the ball.

Wales, who expect their full-back Liam Williams to recover from a shoulder injury, have not lost since the third round of last year's Six Nations in Dublin, and the last time they were beaten in Cardiff was in November 2017 against the All Blacks.

Asked if the comprehensive France victory can prove a timely reminder of Ireland's World Cup aims, Schmidt said: "Probably".

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