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Sunday 8 December 2019

'I walked in the door and Luke is seizing on the ground and Kelly is alongside him. That's the reality'

Joe Schmidt has opened up on the aftermath of Ireland's World Cup exit in an exclusive interview, telling Brendan Fanning that it was difficult to recover from the "emotional rollercoaster" of his team's collapse in Japan

Joe Schmidt stepped down as Ireland head coach after the World Cup. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt stepped down as Ireland head coach after the World Cup. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

In a candid interview to be published on Independent.ie and the Sunday Independent this weekend, Joe Schmidt is honest about his despair following Ireland's poor showing in Japan, but says that returning home to his wife Kelly and son Luke, who suffers from epilepsy, put things in perspective.

"I walked in the door after Richie Murphy dropped me back on the Tuesday evening, after the miserable extra few days we had to spend in Japan, and Luke is seizing on the ground and Kelly is alongside him. That's the reality," Schmidt said.

Joe with his wife Kellie at the U2 concert at Croke Park in 2017. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Joe with his wife Kellie at the U2 concert at Croke Park in 2017. Photo: Steve Humphreys

After a stellar 2018 that saw Ireland win a Six Nations Grand Slam, a test series in Australia and record a win over the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium, Schmidt's side struggled to reach the same heights in 2019.

READ MORE: Joe Schmidt on how Christy Moore inspired Ireland's Grand Slam win after Rory Best considered quitting

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Two heavy Six Nations defeats to England and Wales saw the team's confidence take a hit ahead of the World Cup, where the team suffered a shock loss to Japan in the pool stages before their tournament ended once again at the quarter-final stage with a 32-point defeat to New Zealand.

What made things sting even more for Schmidt was that the World Cup marked the end of his decade coaching in Ireland, having spent three seasons with Leinster before taking on the national team.

New Zealand's Aaron Smith celebrates scoring his side's first try during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match at Tokyo Stadium. Adam Davy/PA Wire.
New Zealand's Aaron Smith celebrates scoring his side's first try during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match at Tokyo Stadium. Adam Davy/PA Wire.

"I live and die by my job, but I rode this emotional rollercoaster during the lead-up to the World Cup and during the World Cup. Kelly got us away for six days in Spain and it was only after that that I actually felt right. That it was time to move on, that I had to shake this, this kind of heaviness.

"Because it does linger."

Paul O’Connell and Joe Schmidt in 2014: Schmidt said O'Connell came to visit him after this year's World Cup campaign
Paul O’Connell and Joe Schmidt in 2014: Schmidt said O'Connell came to visit him after this year's World Cup campaign

Schmidt also revealed that a visit from one of his legendary former players helped ease the pain following Ireland's latest quarter-final exit.

"Paul O'Connell came out and saw me, we had a really good few hours," Schmidt said.

"We had a really good chat. He is a quality individual," he added.

READ MORE: 'We didn't prioritise the Six Nations and that was a mistake' - Joe Schmidt on errors, sleepless nights and World Cup

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