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Schmidt will insist that his side keeps moving forward


8 November 2014: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Guinness Series, Ireland v South Africa. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE)

8 November 2014: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Guinness Series, Ireland v South Africa. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE)


Ireland coach Joe Schmidt

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt



8 November 2014: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Guinness Series, Ireland v South Africa. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE)

SPORTS commentators are often fond of regurgitating the line that teams are only as good as their last game.

One might fancy that Joe Schmidt amongst others, would violently demur. His team are only as good as their next game.

True, Ireland reconvened last night with the familiar exercise of a DVD review as their initial focus point; the coach smiled sheepishly when captain Paul O'Connell referred to it on Saturday evening.

They will begin by analysing just why their scrum and lineout disintegrated, thus forcing Ireland to tackle their fearsomely physical opponents at the rate of two to one.

For all Ireland's prowess at protecting their own ball - they remain the best in the north - and their vigour in applying what Springbok vice-captain Victor Matfield colourfully described as the "slow poison" on opposition ball, this is not a template from which consistent international success is derived.

Ultimately, despite the systems meltdown, Ireland's intelligence saved them as much as the Springboks' brutish insipidness failed them; this may not always be the case.

Schmidt, for one thing, and his players, for another, will not want this to be the case either, for all their justifiable admiration in how they managed to score their country's first major southern hemisphere scalp in three years.

Ireland's propensity to perceive space amidst the claustrophobic violence of such an intimidating Test collision was the other significant factor; it led to the contrasting initial kicks for both tries as each exploited gaping holes.

Ireland's opposition rarely, if ever, possessed such a breadth of vision. However, Ireland will not always be blessed with such deficiencies in others.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," opined South Africa's Jannie du Plessis; the front-row physician whose team couldn't heal themselves.

Ireland learned to patch up gaping wounds and still survive; it is, though, an enervating exercise - as this week's radically altered selection against Georgia, six days before the arrival of team with vision, Australia, will confirm.

Crucially, despite the set-piece implosion, Ireland's response wasn't merely predicated upon passion and spirit; these are non-negotiable traits. Of more importance were the indispensable traits of an assassin's clear vision and clinical execution.

All players must subscribe to this consolidated approach - and judging by accelerated ticket sales for the eminently unattractive Georgians, that vision is shared by the public, too.

An even wider cast of players will be tested this week; the result is a foregone conclusion, of course, but what Schmidt will seek from an expanded grouping is a consistent application of his demanding vision.

There will be a host of different eyes but the view will not alter a whit.

Ireland will not be standing still but moving forward, simply by doing the same things better and better with each game.

Schmidt will already have eyed selection for Georgia but backed by a significant win and a year of intellectual property bequeathed to his players.

The Irish backroom team began analysis on Georgia at the back end of last week and it is likely several combinations offered cosmetic opposition to the run-on Springbok selection.

It is clear the front-row must be rotated while Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony will not be asked to line out for three successive weeks so the pack will see the most changes; Schmidt does not need to see the Murray/Sexton combo this week either.

With Gordon D'Arcy effectively ruled out of contention for South Africa a week prematurely, his work with Stuart Olding last week may bear fruit in a novel midfield combination this weekend.

Schmidt may still like to see Robbie Henshaw outside one of the above too, presuming Jared Payne remains crocked and, in a different attacking context, he will want to see the same back three strut their stuff.

Irish Independent