Thursday 27 June 2019

Schmidt weighs up his options as he bids to turn tour around

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland came up short in Brisbane yesterday in their bid to stretch a winning record of 12 to 13 when they were outplayed by the Wallabies in the final quarter of a tight Test match in front of 46,273.

They will go to the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday hoping to have Keith Earls fit - he failed a HIA in the first half - and with a raft of changes to the starting side. At least half of the bench yesterday will start the second Test where Ireland will have to a cope with a home side fresher and full of confidence having come through this successfully.

"Look, we'll look at it and we'll be the ones putting pressure on ourselves, looking at where we need to be," captain Peter O'Mahony said afterwards. "A week down the line is a long time for a Test match and there's a lot of areas we have to look at."

It was a triumph in more ways than one for the Wallabies. Michael Cheika has been putting pressure on the Australian Super Rugby franchises to produce fitter players and they outscored Ireland in the second half despite having less of the territory and ball.

"We needed to have a work ethic that was the same if not better just to have a foothold in the game," Cheika said. "It proved to be a bit of a slogfest around one team and then another team going. And I was really proud of that effort.

"We tried hard to reduce our penalties. We can be better on that but I thought our effort was there. I just liked the character we showed in that game because it didn't go our way a lot of the time.

"The Irish system's pretty good - their players are well managed and they come out here really well drilled. That was a tight match, a very tight match. We know how good they are and it's going to get harder. They're getting over their arrival, jet lag - they mixed a few of their players - they're going to change their look again next week and we're going to have to change as well. And that's the best part about the three-match series concept. We're jousting one week and then it's on to the next week and we've got to change tactics."

Joe Schmidt has to regroup having had the unusual experience of losing a Test match. At this stage of the season, losing the first of three Tests is harder for the away side to deal with, given the fatigue factor.

"It's nothing that we didn't expect," he said of the Aussie approach. "They're an unbelievably athletic and talented team. The last time they played here they beat the All Blacks. That's the level and we've got to be able to compete at that level and get the margins to fall our way, albeit they were pretty skinny today. With 14 minutes left we led 9-8 but you've got to lead after 80 minutes."

The coach expects to have a fully fit, albeit tired, squad to pick from.

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