Saturday 23 September 2017

Revealed: Statistics show Ireland's attack has improved in the last two years under Joe Schmidt

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt

Jack O'Toole

The Irish Rugby team has been under fire this week after a disappointing 22-9 loss to Wales in Cardiff last Friday night.

The Welsh defeat marked Ireland’s second loss of this year’s Six Nations, and the team’s third loss from their last six games, as questions start to rise over Ireland’s lack of creativity in attack and if the side has evolved under Joe Schmidt over the last two seasons.

After winning 16 of his first 21 games in charge, Ireland’s win percentage has dropped dramatically over the last 18 months from 76% to 54%, with Schmidt’s side winning just 12 of their last 22 games.

Ireland’s wins against Tier 1 nations has also dipped from 14 out of 19 in Schmidt’s first two years in charge, compared to just nine wins from 19 games since September 2015.

Ireland has posted statement wins over New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in the last two years, and while question marks persist over Ireland’s potency in attack, Schmidt’s charges have actually scored more tries over the second-half of the New Zealander’s tenure, with Ireland scoring 68 tries in their last 22 games compared to 57 tries in Schmidt’s first 21 games.

However, 39 of those tries were scored across five games against Canada, Romania and Italy, accounting for 57% of their total tries in the 22 game period.

It’s actually Ireland’s defence that has regressed under the former Leinster coach with Ireland conceding 19.09 points per game compared to 14.05 points per game.

During Schmidt’s first 21 games in charge, Ireland lost five games with just one defeat by a converted try or more, a 17-point loss to Australia in Schmidt’s second game in charge.

However, over the last 22 games, Ireland have lost five games by a converted try or more – an 8-point defeat to England in the final Rugby World Cup warm-up game, a 23-point defeat to Argentina in the Rugby World Cup, an 11-point defeat to England in the 2016 Six Nations, a 12-point defeat to New Zealand in the November internationals and a 13-point loss to Wales last week.

Ireland have won less games in the second-half of Schmidt’s tenure, they’ve scored more tries, but they have been considerably worse defensively, particularly since assistant coach Andy Farrell was appointed as Ireland’s defence coach in the summer; with Ireland’s average points conceded rising to 21.27 points per game under the former England and Lions assistant.

It must be noted that six of the 11 games with Farrell at the helm have been against the southern hemisphere triumvirate of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but the 21.27 average mark still represents more than a seven-point increase from Schmidt’s first 21 games in charge, a worrying statistic with a red-hot England coming to Dublin on Saturday.

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