By Tom Jenkins
Wayne Pivac is hoping Dan Biggar’s scrambled senses and Wales’ jolted defence are both restored to working order as he looks ahead to his team’s next Six Nations assignment against France.
Biggar’s clash with Robbie Henshaw during Ireland’s 24-14 bonus point victory in Dublin resulted in the Wales No. 10 failing a head injury assessment for the third time in less than five months.
The Northampton player is to be assessed again but a lengthy lay-off may now follow for the Wales No.10 in a position where Pivac is already without Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Patchell.
Jarrod Evans replaced Biggar at the Aviva Stadium, while Pivac also lost his other fly-half option, Owen Williams, who was injured in the warm-up.
Wing Josh Adams lasted only 25 minutes before going off with a hip injury, while Pivac admitted that he has on-field concerns, too, given that Wales conceded four tries and made too many mistakes.
“Going into the changing room at 12-7, we felt if we continue to work hard in defence but then got some territory ourselves and possession that we could turn the game around,” said Pivac.
“Clearly we didn’t start as well as we would have liked after half-time – inaccuracies in their 22 and we let them off the hook a couple of times.
“We’ve got to be very accurate in our passing game and I think today we put about eight balls down, turned the ball over eight times through handling, so that’s unacceptable at this level of the game, something that we will need to go away and work on.
“And just generally too many turnovers when we were in good positions on the field, so you’re not able to build that constant pressure, which Ireland were able to do when they scored a couple of their tries.”
Pivac, who said the key duo of Biggar and Adams required further assessment, insists his squad must quickly regroup.
“It is a tournament and we’ve got another three games to look forward to,” he said.
“Certainly we’ll be working very hard to make sure that we get the areas right that we need to, so we can put on a better performance next time around.”
Defeat for Wales was a first in this tournament since losing on the same ground two years ago and a maiden loss for Pivac.
He added: “We came up against a side that were desperate to win the match, as we were. I don’t think that was anything unexpected, really.
“For us, it was just a matter of we didn’t take our opportunities. We were inaccurate in a lot of our play.
“When we did get into the areas of the field we wanted to, we weren’t accurate and let the Irish off the hook. When they got down the other end, they made us pay.
“We had four or five opportunities in their 22 and turned the ball over either through a scrum penalty or a little knock-on. So we have to go away and work hard at our game and make sure we are a little bit better in those areas for the French game.”
Biggar added the extras to a sharp Tomos Williams score to briefly put the visitors ahead at 7-5, while Leigh Halfpenny converted a consolation touchdown from flanker Justin Tipuric in added time.
But tries by full-back Jordan Larmour, prop Tadhg Furlong, flanker Josh Van Der Flier and wing Andrew Conway saw Ireland home as they moved impressively towards an intriguing meeting with England on February 23.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell’s reign had begun in stuttering fashion with a narrow win over Scotland seven days before and he was delighted by the emphatic nature of a second successive victory at the Aviva Stadium which keeps his side on course for a Grand Slam.
“It was an improved performance. The start was the complete reverse to last week,” said Farrell.
“We were a little bit passive at the start of the game last week. I thought there were some heroic moments last week – especially in those moments we had to dig deep to win the game – but I thought we got that 100 per cent across the 80 minutes today.
“We managed that game superbly, especially in the second half. And to score a bonus-point try was really pleasing.”