Tuesday 12 December 2017

Schmidt plans positive approach against All-Blacks

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with Jonathan Sexton during Ireland Rugby Squad Training at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with Jonathan Sexton during Ireland Rugby Squad Training at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Weather permitting, Joe Schmidt is pledging to continue Ireland's positive approach when they look to back up their famous win over New Zealand in Chicago.

The Ireland coach has been here too long to trust the increasingly optimistic forecast, particularly after his side trained in sleet yesterday morning, but if the conditions play ball his team will too.

The Six Nations side scored five tries in their historic 40-29 victory at Soldier Field and will need to play on the front-foot again tomorrow, with the All Blacks also likely to take an attacking approach.

"Conditions dependent, I don't think teams metamorphose over a two-week period," he said.


"Both teams will really only have one week's preparation between the two games. Steve and his crew would have been focused on the Italian job that they had. They had 11 different players to the starting XV this time out."

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

The one thing that has changed over the fortnight since the teams met is expectation, with Hansen attempting to switch the favourites' tag onto Ireland's shoulders.

At the beginning of his Ireland tenure, Schmidt wanted the team to embrace the favourites' tag.

"Expectation is good," he told this newspaper in 2014. "I wouldn't be a fan of being the underdog, I think sometimes you can become too comfortable with the underdog tag.

"I think at Leinster there was a mindshift where they became comfortable with being favourites and it almost gave them more desire to make sure expectations were met."

The Aviva Stadium has been sold-out for some time and the fans who watched the historic first win over New Zealand from afar will expect similar. So, how does he feel they have adapted to that?

Read more: All Blacks team to face Ireland named: Big guns return for Dublin test

"I don't think you're ever super-comfortable with the expectation, because we stay focused on trying to hit some performance markers and sometimes the expectation; we don't control," he said.

"Some people say some things about what we are capable of doing, of what we should be doing or what our opponents aren't capable of doing . . . We know that any of that information might be false because on any given day somebody can turn up and deliver.

"Somebody can get a couple of things right and it swings a game. What you try to do is be as studious as you can, try to be as clear as you can in what your plan is.

"I don't think we necessarily tactically did anything that was extra-special, it wasn't a lot different to what we'd done in South Africa but you get access points through a couple of lineouts in the first half, get a bit of momentum and a bit of confidence and suddenly when you're playing with confidence it's a little bit different.

"One of the advantages the All Blacks have, is that they've been afforded the luxury of feeling a confidence about what they can deliver because their performances reflect exactly that."

In Chicago, Ireland used New Zealand's understrength second-row and loose discipline to gain access into the game, scoring two tries from their lineout maul from field position generated by penalties.


The All Blacks will tighten up both departments tomorrow, but Schmidt hopes to find opportunity elsewhere.

"I hope so, because I think they're going to do both of those things. I'd be surprised if they don't," he said. "So to actually put that pressure on is going to be a real challenge for us and at the same time they are probably going to get in amongst us a little bit more."

"So if we're denied that access point, then you've got to go looking for other ones, and we've worked on potentially where they may be."

Schmidt confirmed that there are no concerns over Conor Murray who sat out training on Monday, while the knee injury that kept Ultan Dillane off the bench should clear in time for next week's clash with Australia.

Iain Henderson replaces the Kerryman, with Paddy Jackson also included on the bench.

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