Wednesday 17 January 2018

Ruaidhri O'Connor: Five topics for Schmidt's review

New Ireland coach's Monday video review sessions were notorious in his time at Leinster – here, we look at some of the issues he will address with his team today

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor


Despite not functioning as a unit for most of Saturday's clash, Samoa still managed to breach the Irish defensive line several times during the afternoon.

Given Brian O'Driscoll had only played 73 minutes of rugby this season, it is understandable that he got some of his reads wrong, but they won't be forgiven by the Australians this Saturday.

The Wallabies looked lethal in Turin as they cruised to a 50-20 win over Italy and will relish the game tape as they begin their preparations in Wanderers this week.

Les Kiss has been working hard on implementing his plans, with the team having switched back to the defensive side of the game, but he won't have been happy with the fact that the integrity of the line was sloppy so often.

Ireland need their defensive leaders to make the correct decisions – shooting at appropriate junctures and holding when needed. Nineteen missed tackles won't make for pretty viewing against Australia.

If repeated, the unpredictable Quade Cooper and his all-singing backline will make hay at Lansdowne Road.


Schmidt referenced two incidents in particular in the aftermath of Saturday's game when he spoke about protecting the ball better.

They came at the start of both halves, firstly with O'Driscoll attempting a behind the back flick that wasn't and then Peter O'Mahony ruining a brilliant break by hurling the ball into a space with no Irish player having tracked his run.

On six separate occasions before half-time, Ireland coughed up possession carelessly and this was partly to blame for the scrum-fest the fans were forced to endure.

If Ireland's hands were below par, the Samoans were worse and, if conditions are as perfect this Saturday, then the Wallabies are unlikely to be anywhere near as loose.

Schmidt famously set out to make Leinster the best passing team in Europe and, despite the limited time available, needs to work similar magic quickly with his new team.

"Going forward to next week and the week after, I don't think we can afford to be that untidy with the ball," said the Ireland coach.


The ref-link radio is great for revealing little nuggets of information and it was quite clear from the roars and shouts coming from Ireland's players that the use of the 'chop tackle' is on their agenda this November.

But, despite the fact that they were imploring each other to execute the low-tackling technique trademarked by Johnny Sexton's Racing Metro team-mate Dan Lydiate, they didn't do it enough – in the second half in particular – and allowed the big Samoans gain yards as a result.

When Ireland did hit low and hard, it gave O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Rory Best the chance to poach the Samoan's ball, not to mention giving the backs room to counter. They'll be looking for more of the same this week.

"We let them in when we tackled a bit high and it caused us problems," captain Jamie Heaslip, who led the way with 18 tackles, said. "When we won the collision on both sides of the ball we were effective."


Sexton's expected return will help, but Paddy Jackson was one of the lesser culprits in a kicking game that cost Ireland possession for very little gain.

During the first half, in particular, there was a string of aimless efforts that weren't punished by the Samoans, but could prove fatal against the Australian back-three.

"Our kicking out of hand wasn't as good as it could have been at times. They were either too long to contest or too far into the middle of the field," Schmidt said on Saturday. "I can just imagine if someone manages to find Israel Folau or Adam Ashley-Cooper with one of those, we'll really have our work cut out for us."


It can't all be negative after a 40-9 win against a team ranked above you, so Schmidt might want to highlight the strong work done by Best, O'Mahony, D'Arcy and O'Brien at the breakdown as an example to their team-mates.

Australia's loosies will be stronger than their Samoan counterparts, so Ireland can't expect the same sort of dominance, but there was a template there for Ireland to win key possession on the ground and, hopefully, we can generate momentum from there.

Ruaidhri O'Connor's team to face Australia – R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, L Marshall, F McFadden; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross; M McCarthy, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Irish Independent

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