Saturday 19 October 2019

'It will be hard to say goodbye' - Joe Schmidt prepared for his final home Six Nations game

Joe Schmidt during Irish press conference today
Joe Schmidt during Irish press conference today
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has admitted he'll have a tinge of emotion as he sends his team out at the Aviva Stadium in the Six Nations for the final time against France.

Although he'll be in charge for two World Cup warm-up matches in his adopted home town during the summer, this is the last competitive fixture the Kiwi will be in charge of before he departs his role in November.

He has made seven changes to his side for the penultimate game of this year's Championship and his main focus is on the team finding their 2018 form.

But he is fully aware that Sunday will be an emotional day at the office.

“I briefly mentioned it to my wife yesterday when I called in at home and it will be hard to say goodbye to it," he said.

"We've had some great days and occasions in the Aviva and it would be great if this was another.

"Players play under those circumstances all the time. You never know when your next cap is coming and coaches are probably like that as well.

"You could be chopped at any time. It's about the players this week. They take control and put the performance together. We are going to move on. These are things you will miss for sure."

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Schmidt is hoping his much-changed team show improvement after a scratchy win in Rome.

"It was about giving a bit more opportunity to players," he said of his selection.

"It's great have CJ (Stander) and other guys who are back. Jack Conan, we wanted to give him an opportunity to get his foot back in the door off the bench.

"And we wanted to spread the opportunities again at hooker and prop. Second row, as happy with Tadhg (Beirne) as we have been, he is a little bit sore this week as he's still coming back after injury and Ultan (Dillane) played well against Italy.

"His tackle count was very high against Italy and the amount of moments he was involved was really good and we wanted to reward that performance.

"We have had some others in the squad because we're trying to give opportunities. Ross (Byrne) has slotted back in and Rob Herring and Kieran Marmion. They all come into the reckoning potentially next week.

Were always going to try and spread load across Six Nations which is a slightly different brief in this competition."

After a frustrating afternoon in Rome, the coach is hoping his team will produce a performance at home.

“There was certainly a frustration for everyone, even coming in at half-time in Italy, but the way they fought through... it wasn't perfect and we were disappointed with the performance but collectively we can't afford to be held back by what happened," he said.

"They picked themselves up really well from that and people probably underestimate how tough it is in Rome and the pressure from Italy.

"Wales didn't get a big score there either and then turned it around with a big game against England. Every game is a new experience and a new challenge and I hope we can demonstrate that we are up for this challenge on Sunday."

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