Six Nations

Schmidt praises speed of Ireland 'evolution'

Joe Schmidt praised the speed of Ireland's "evolution" after they rounded off their Six Nations campaign with a 35-25 victory over Scotland.

Ireland's defence of the title was hit by the retirement of captain Paul O'Connell after last year's Rugby World Cup, while several key players have been missing through injury.

But after failing to win their first three matches, Ireland finished strongly, hammering Italy 58-15 before running in four tries to out battle Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

And head coach Schmidt has seen plenty of positives from Ireland's campaign.

"I think as a team you are always evolving and sometimes that evolution has to be a bit more rapid and involves a broader group," he told ITV Sport. 

"For us it was a lot broader and we had five guys come in and make their first cap. As well as that we've had a number of experienced players unavailable, and the skipper that retired. 

"For the group to make a bit of progress through the tournament [is credit to them]. I'd still say we started the tournament pretty well, to be 13-0 up against a strong Wales side."

Scotland missed the opportunity to win three straight Six Nations matches for the first time, but they have made good progress throughout the tournament.

Having beaten Italy to earn a first Six Nations win under Vern Cotter, Scotland went on to earn a surprise victory over France.

Cotter feels the Ireland game has provided lessons for his side to learn from, but is satisfied the team's progression.

"There are positives from the game. We didn't start well but clawed our way back in," he said. "That was pleasing but I'm disappointed not to have done better than that. 

"I probably need 24 hours to do a full analysis, England went through and won the competition and I think if we'd got ahead of them in that first game we'd have got the result we wanted. 

"Against Wales we controlled the game for 65 minutes and let it go. Italy and France were games I thought we controlled better, today was a little step back in a few areas."