Sunday 28 December 2014

Schmidt sets sights on World Cup semi-finals

Published 19/04/2014 | 02:30

15 March 2014; Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship 2014, France v Ireland. Stade De France, Saint Denis, Paris, France. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Joe Schmidt is eyeing a World Cup semi-final but is wary of the challenges Ireland will face to reach that point. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

While his new boss is dreaming of winning World Cups, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has set his sights a little lower by targeting a last-four place at next year's tournament in England.

Having won the Six Nations last month, expectations for the national team are on the rise and new performance director David Nucifora stated his belief that winning rugby's biggest prize should be on Ireland's agenda at his first press conference.

Schmidt, however, was making more grounded claims when he gave an interview to the 'New Zealand Herald' in which he stated his ambition to go further than any Irish coach before him and reach the semi-finals.

"If you are looking at the big step further, there are a whole lot of little steps that can trip you up," he said.

"So I try and negotiate my work with a bit of thought to the future and also the short term.

"It would be great to get to a semi-final of a World Cup because Ireland have never achieved that.

"It is 17 months away. I have given it some thought – but so will (fellow New Zealander) Kieran Crowley, and he and Canada will want to undo us in game one."

Schmidt, who took over as Ireland coach after three stellar seasons at Leinster, admitted he is still struggling with the lack of day-to-day involvement with his team.

"I'm not going to get my hands on the team again until June," he said.

"The windows in this international coaching are brief and I haven't adjusted to that yet. The Six Nations is a succession of finals, there is no room to experiment and no chance to give players an opportunity to run out unless someone is injured or not performing. It is a really challenging learning curve and I don't think I am too far along it yet."

Meanwhile, Leinster remain on track for a home Pro12 semi-final after they routed Treviso at the RDS last night.

"Home advantage is huge," coach Matt O'Connor said after the 62-7 win that keeps them top with two games to go.

"We were on the wrong end of it in the Heineken Cup quarter. To be playing in front of their own fans, family and friends, it's a huge bonus."

Leinster report pages 62-63

Irish Independent

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