Saturday 10 December 2016

Johnny O'Connor: Trust Joe Schmidt to win when it counts

Ideal game-plan gives Ireland every chance of pushing for silverware

Johnny O'Connor

Published 18/09/2015 | 02:30

Bundee Aki on the charge
Bundee Aki on the charge
Tiernan O'Halloran in action against Glasgow

There's just one day to go until Paul O'Connell leads his Ireland side out onto the pitch in the Millennium Stadium to face Canada.

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Everyone is looking at Italy and France as the threats in this groups, but Ireland need to remain composed and pick off sides like Canada and Romania.

Canada are a huge physical threat and have big units all over the park. It will be a tough game and Ireland will certainly know they were in a match.

I don't know how comfortable it will be, but you wouldn't expect anything other than a win for the Irish.

There was a bit of hysteria after the defeats to Wales and England, but they were the warm-ups, and there won't be any excuses here.

They won't be needed, though - you can draw a direct line here with Schmidt's Leinster career, and what he is building with Ireland.

Boiled

When it all boiled down to it, and the important games came up, Leinster always won. Schmidt's mantra is based around clinically efficient rugby for knockout-style games.

He sends his team out to kick the corners, play the percentages, spot weaknesses and make the opposition pay by forcing errors.

It's such a difficult thing to do but revolves around doing the simple thing right, and that's what Ireland are going to do in this World Cup.

Ireland have a great game-plan. They respect possession and don't just throw it around as much as other teams, but they don't need to. They win games at the end of the day.

Every game is effectively a knock-out game in the World Cup. It may be just the pool stages but all of these matches count for something.

Ireland will have too much for Canada tomorrow. With the experience the senior players in the Ireland squad have, they won't repeat old failings.

Everyone remembers 2007, the issues that presented themselves there, and the few players involved then that are still playing for Ireland in this World Cup will look to ensure that doesn't happen again.

For England, they have been set up for a fall with that win over Ireland, and the media attention they have been getting recently. They are a quality side and they showed that last time out, but I don't think they will win this World Cup.

They have the skills to make the latter stages but I just think there are better teams than them. It will be a fascinating tussle against Fiji at Twickenham tonight, and we will have a better idea of where England are going after that.

But it's probably the most open World Cup of all time - New Zealand are obviously the favourites, but there could be some upsets. Australia are on form, South Africa always do well in the World Cup, France are right there too, and Ireland and England could go far.

There are others like Wales who are very strong.

While the World Cup kicks off, the Pro12 takes a break for a couple of weeks, and Pat Lam would be fairly happy with how things stand.

Connacht have six points from two games and they could easily have left with nothing last weekend.

They conceded some very sloppy tries but they were individual errors, and things that wouldn't usually happen again.

For example, John Cooney's slip was incredibly unfortunate and there were other times when the defensive line was breached all too easily.

Break

But, Connacht will have work-ons and that's important with a break like this - they don't like coming in off long lay-offs, but hopefully that will focus the mind.

It's Cardiff next up in October, and the lads will feel they really owe them one, and I'm sure the mood is pretty good.

The backline looked really sharp against Glasgow, and Rory Parata doesn't seemed overawed about filling in for Robbie Henshaw. The forwards were on top again - they absolutely destroyed the Glasgow scrum and they got rewarded for it with a penalty try.

It shows the foundations are there for a good season, so hopefully Connacht can build on that when they get back into it.

Irish Independent

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