Saturday 18 November 2017

Schmidt: We want to be known as an 85 minute team

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt has lauded his team for their brave display against South Africa, saying the win over the Springboks has eased the pain of last year’s loss to New Zealand.

The Ireland coach spoke of the pride he had in his players’ performance in the 29-15 win at the Aviva Stadium, the world number two’s first defeat against northern hemisphere opposition under Heyneke Meyer.

The win takes Schmidt’s winning run to five in a row since defeat to England at Twickenham and will be one of the most memorable of his time in charge.

“Probably, the first reflection I have is that South Africa scored approximately the same time as New Zealand did last year and we want to be known as a team who goes 85 minutes,” he said.

“Fatigue, after trying to keep such a big team out puts pressure on. It certainly atones for the feeling we had at the end of Guinness Series last season.

“I’m delighted with the performance, I don’t think you can ask for too much more from a courage perspective. I think that there’s a number of players who really stood up physically to a really tough assignment.”

The coach was particularly happy with Ireland’s ability to cope with South Africa’s physicality.

“In the end, you can’t hide,” he said.

“They’re big and they’re going to run at, or around you. You have to just man-up and the players can take massive credit.

“Paul (O’Connell), Dev (Toner) and Simon (Easterby) put a lot of work into having a clear strategy. For them to have so many platforms and even a midfield strategy to kick to touch.”

Schmidt said he was hopeful that Chris Henry, ruled out before kick-off, could return to training this week.

“I found out about Chris this morning at 8.30, he wasn’t well and we believe he has a virus. It meant he wouldn’t be capable of playing, he’ll be checked out fully and hopefully he’ll be back in camp on Monday evening,” he said.

“It’s disappointing for Chris, he limped off after 30 minutes against Samoa, but a guy who was off the bench and came into the starting XV, I thought Rhys Ruddock was worthy of the jersey.

"Never did we say the injuries were going to compromise what we were going to do. We had a good spine, it probably slipped a couple of discs with Chris and Rory Best coming out, but our 9-10 axis were excellent and the skipper and Dev in the second row, the back-row and even the front-row - I take my hat off to Mike Ross."

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