Schmidt: "Anxiety" may yet kick in
Published 10/02/2014 | 08:02
The hype surrounding a flawless RBS 6 Nations start will create "anxiety" among Ireland's players, according to head coach Joe Schmidt.
Schmidt conceded public expectation will soar after Ireland's brutal 26-3 dismantling of Wales in Dublin on Saturday, which followed on from a similarly ruthless 28-6 defeat of Scotland.
The former Leinster coach pledged to help his squad deal with the increasing weight of expectation, starting when they reconvene for a training camp in Clonmel later this week.
Ireland will chase the Triple Crown against England at Twickenham on Saturday, February 22.
Schmidt said wing Tommy Bowe must feature for Ulster this weekend after groin trouble to have any chance of returning in time to face England.
Lock Dan Tuohy's broken arm leaves Iain Henderson, Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan, if he can return after injury for Munster this weekend, vying for a replacement berth.
Keen to ward off premature talk of titles and trophies, Schmidt vowed to keep his squad as unfazed as they were focused against Wales.
"It is massive, our next game, it's huge and I think part of what we have to manage now is player anxiety," said Schmidt.
"They are going to be made well aware, going for a break for a couple of days before we hit Clonmel, they are going to be made well aware of the expectation, the public expectation.
"We want to actually develop, but that expectation does actually breed anxiety because you know to meet that expectation you're going to have to be bang-on on the day.
"There are a lot of variables that will make that difficult to do, and that's our challenge.
"Going to Clonmel in this week gives an opportunity for a change of scene, and we will head to Belfast in the week after the England game too."
Ireland's thunderclap physicality petrified Wales, led by the fearsome Munster flanker Peter O'Mahony.
Schmidt hailed the 24-year-old's partnership with Jamie Heaslip and Chris Henry, so ably deputising for tournament injury absentee Sean O'Brien.
Ex-New Zealand schoolteacher Schmidt knows Ireland must reproduce such steel to compete with England's grit.
"They were physically dominant for long periods in that French game," said Schmidt of Stuart Lancaster's side.
"And for all but the last game last year, they had probably been, or they were the team that was in front.
"So no doubt they will be very, very tough.
"The guys who have come off the bench in the last couple of weeks have done a fantastic job.
"You've probably got to try to reward that, and maybe mix the group up a little too.
"We've now lost Dan [Tuohy], so someone else will get an opportunity.
"I thought Iain Henderson, if he didn't score he was very, very close to it in Ulster, and managed also just to stop a try that the Ospreys nearly scored as well.
"We've watched Mike McCarthy as well, and Donnacha Ryan is due back reasonably soon as well.
"One of the great things about that is that there's a competition to fill the spot if it is vacated."
While Schmidt admits wing Bowe still has a chance to prove his fitness, he said wings Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble are hardly likely to simply step aside.
"If Tommy were able to play this week he'd come back into the reckoning as well," said Schmidt.
"Luke Fitzgerald's another guy, Fergus McFadden will get some game-time against the Dragons this week, and they will look to sustain the pressure.
"It's hard to fault Dave Kearney though, and I thought Andrew Trimble did really well as well.
"When you've got the jersey, you roll the sleeves of it, and make sure no one can take it off you."