Sunday 4 December 2016

Brent Pope: Joe Schmidt will put as much thought into Canada than he did for the All Blacks

Brent Pope

Published 11/11/2016 | 20:46

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt in conversation with team captain Peter O’Mahony during the Captain's Run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt in conversation with team captain Peter O’Mahony during the Captain's Run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

In a year that seems to be about the rise of the underdog, Ireland did not have too much time to celebrate their historical victory over the All Blacks last weekend before it was back to Dublin to prepare for tomorrow’s game against Canada.

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In years gone by, the players would have celebrated long and hard, and justifiably so after 111 years of defeat.

But in the modern game it may have been more a case of ‘ice baths’ rather than ‘ice cocktails’ after such a physical and emotionally draining game.

Firstly, can I write that as a Kiwi living in Ireland for over 25 years how proud I was of both teams.

I celebrated Ireland’s skilful win at Soldier Field and felt so much pride for a rugby nation that came of age and finally had the self-belief, skill and determination to not only beat the All Blacks but to do it in some style.

Sometimes supporters can expect a lot of their team, but with only a small enough number of registered rugby players, and rugby not being your national game, the win must rank as one of the greatest Irish sporting successes.

 I must also congratulate the New Zealanders and the All Blacks in the way they handled themselves post match.

All Black supporters don’t like to lose, and frankly they are not used to it, but to a man they congratulated the Irish with deserved credit.

No moaning or complaining just a pure and honest recognition that the All Blacks were outplayed by the better team on the day, and they were.

Ireland’s Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt is known as a perfectionist.

At the end of last season, he took what many thought was a less than full strength Irish team to South Africa and really should have pulled off another historical series win.

More significantly, it showed that Schmidt expects the same level of performance from all his players, they must buy into his way of thinking to be involved and his players responded.

I know what Schmidt’s attitude to last week’s epic game will be, that if Ireland can do it once, why then can’t they replicate that level every week? 

That is now his mission, to bring a consistency of performance to Ireland’s game regardless of who plays and regardless of the opposition.

Irish rugby has shown that it can live with the best in the world, Schmidt now expects players to deliver that intensity week in, week out at international level, because that is what it takes to win at a World Cup or a Grand Slam.

And these types of titles are now something Irish rugby can aim towards.

Last week Schmidt recognised that the All Blacks were susceptible in the maul and aerial game.

He turned some of the All Black back three around with his tactics.

As I mentioned in this column last week, they are not used to running back and as a result the All Black kicking game was poor.

Ireland took the All Blacks out of their comfort zone.

This weekend Ireland face Canada and Schmidt will be telling his players that, just like them, Canada will be trying to make their own history.

Obviously, Seán O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony come back in and that will give Schmidt some real selection dilemmas for the return fixture against the All Blacks, but will also give him the luxury of a powerful bench as well.

In other years, Ireland may have followed an excellent performance with a much lesser one when facing a side of lower quality, but not under Schmidt’s watch.

Every game is equal to him as far as preparation and game plan are concerned.

Schmidt will have put as much thought into this game as he did last week, that’s what makes him the coach he is.

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