Saturday 24 August 2019

Joe Schmidt points the way forward

Captain Ruddock says coach has  inexperienced Ireland prepared for everything Fiji will throw at them at sold-out Aviva

Andrew Conway (left) and Darren Sweetnam in conversation with head coach Joe Schmidt during the Ireland Captain’s Run at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Andrew Conway (left) and Darren Sweetnam in conversation with head coach Joe Schmidt during the Ireland Captain’s Run at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Captain Rhys Ruddock says Joe Schmidt has left no stone unturned in ensuring his inexperienced team are ready for everything Fiji will throw at them at the Aviva Stadium.

The head coach has named a team that includes eight players with five caps or fewer for the second Guinness Series encounter against the ninth-ranked team in the world who contain some of the European game's most exciting players.

Ruddock hailed Joey Carbery ahead of his first start at home for his country and said the work done on the training field this week would give the youngsters confidence against the Islanders.

Despite making 13 changes from last week's win over South Africa, Schmidt's team remain strong favourites to win their sixth successive game and Ruddock is confident that the team can deliver.

"The coaching staff we have and the management, we know we'll always have a good plan and if the guys show the commitment to it in the way we train and the way we prepare then we're in with a good shout against any team," the Leinster flanker said.

"The level in training this week has been no different to last so that gives us great confidence. At the same time we're well aware that this is a huge test, both in terms of maybe the limited experience we have on our side and the lack of time with the combinations and the ability of the opposition.

"If we let them play the way they want to play they're capable of beating any team and very difficult to defend. So it's a massive test but the way we've prepared we've got to take confidence from that and bring it into tomorrow."

Schmidt has prepared his team fully on the game-breaking threats in a Fiji side that contains some class acts, including Nemani Nadolo and Leone Nakarawa.

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"When they have the ball you have to be energised to go after them and not be afraid of them because if you let them dictate terms they're capable of taking anyone on and beating defenders at will," Ruddock said.

"So just try and give them less time and space and be accurate with what we're doing so don't gift them opportunities to play the way they want to play with lots of time and space.

"I think with the nature of this group, with guys getting first caps, first starts, a lot of young players, a lot of guys who haven't played in a while, there's always going to be that excitement.

"And any opportunity you get at home, in a green jersey especially - myself, I don't even have that many games here in the Aviva - so it is special, and the fact that it is sold out as well will gives the lads a massive boost and yeah, it's always a special occasion when it's a full stadium."

Ruddock has been impressed with how Carbery has led the backline this week ahead of his big chance to impress with Johnny Sexton rested.

"We've got a massive amount of faith in him," Ruddock said.

"In training he runs rings around me, he's a quality player, and the leadership he's shown this week.

"It's tough to fill Johnny's shoes but they call today the captain's run, it was more Joey's run.

"He can galvanise the players and show what he can get out of the players.

"It's to the credit of Joey and (Kieran) Marmion, the guys who will put the shape on what we do. He's just composed and making sure everyone's clear with what we're doing.

"That transcends through the group. It's very tough, but that's the job of the 10. He's been exposed to training alongside and with some of the best players in that position.

"He's developed into a superb player himself. Credit to him with the work he's done and learned fast."

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