Monday 29 May 2017

Joe Schmidt hits back at claims his game-plan is too 'attritional'

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt's briefing with the daily newspaper journalists was winding down yesterday when the last question of the day came from the floor. Turns out it was the answer he seemed to be best-prepared for.

The Ireland coach has been accused of playing with an all-too attritional style which wears his players down and indirectly leads to injury. As part of that, he has been accused of using one-out runners too often.

Schmidt does not agree with the assertion and, while he didn't provide the figures themselves, he says the numbers back him up.

"What is the percentage of one-out runners?" he asked the floor to be greeted with silence.

"Yeah, a lot less than second handling," he continued. "Again, I try not to get distracted by people who throw out opinions and not back it up with what they've actually had a look at.

"There are times where it is inevitable that you are only going to get one transfer because defensive lines are coming so hard and so fast. If you try to get another transfer, it will be even more attritional because the guy who receives the second pass will get knocked over man and ball.

"Some of it is making sure, if you can, you manipulate the defensive line so that you can buy enough to make enough transfers.

"I think - I know it was Italy - that we got away from in that last 20 minutes. But, right through November, I'm not sure about the references to one-out runners because it is not something I saw in Chicago or in the Aviva (Stadium).

"It is not something I've really seen so far in the Six Nations.

"Once you get into the opposition '22' and they don't have to defend the backfield, they've got 14 or 15 guys on the front-line, it is very hard to put a number of passes together.

"Just because of the nature of the defence; it is attritional because it is a very physical game. It is attritional because we wouldn't be the biggest team around.

"We've got to try to be really accurate in what we do.

"It is one of those things. You try to keep a balance and you try to look after players by not forcing passes back to players who are under more pressure and loading them up with a man-and-ball situation."

Given their physical nature, games against France tend to be the most attritional of all but Schmidt has no plans to meet referee Nigel Owens before the game to discuss the safety of his players after last year's ugly scenes in Paris when both Johnny Sexton and Dave Kearney were the victims of cheap shots.

"If you focus too much on that, particularly with the referee we had that day, it is not something that hasn't happened again," he said of Jaco Peyper who also let some high tackles go during Ireland's defeat to New Zealand in November.

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France head coach Guy Noves. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

"You know and we have a fair bit of faith in Nigel to make sure things are kept in check and that includes us. We have to make sure that our discipline is good and we don't transgress. I know that Guy (Noves) will have his players lined up to make sure they are similar.

"We are both pretty conscious of how driven the referees are in trying to stamp out foul play.

"So it is not something we have discussed at all. At this stage I don't have any plans to meet the referee, I don't tend to meet the referee before games, they have a tough enough job to do."

Schmidt is fully aware that it's win-or-bust this weekend.

"Mathematically, there's not too many other ways of looking at it," he said.

"England have obviously got a little bit of a flyer on everyone else, because they're the only unbeaten team, so for ourselves, Scotland, Wales and France, there's going to be two teams that are left hanging in and two teams that are effectively out of the race for the top spot and will be scrambling for the other places."

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Irish Independent

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