Thursday 19 September 2019

Schmidt fires warning: Don't hold back

 

Like Schmidt, captain Rory Best is facing into his final home game for Ireland as he approaches the end of a stellar career after the World Cup. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Like Schmidt, captain Rory Best is facing into his final home game for Ireland as he approaches the end of a stellar career after the World Cup. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Joe Schmidt has warned his players to put any thoughts of avoiding injury out of their minds and focus on the task in hand against Wales this afternoon.

Ahead of his final match as Ireland coach at the Aviva Stadium, Schmidt is looking for a momentum-building performance ahead of his squad's departure for Japan's Rugby World Cup next Wednesday.

Having mixed and matched their selections for last week's Ireland victory in Cardiff, both Schmidt and Warren Gatland have picked stronger sides for the final warm-up game before they depart for Japan next week.

And, having named his 31-man squad last week and recalled Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw to the starting XV for the first time this season, Schmidt wants a performance.

"I think you have to fully commit to this game, first and foremost," he said.

"There is always a risk that if you are half-pied at all, if you are trying to look after yourself for the flight over, you don't get the flight because you are half a yard slow and you are slightly vulnerable somewhere.

"I think the best way to protect yourself is to be fully committed to the game and I think the players are driving that message amongst themselves and, hopefully, we'll see evidence of that.

"If we can get a good performance out of Saturday and show we've slowly built through the last three weeks, having freshened up a little bit, starting to enter that phase of tapering to perform.

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"I'd like to think that we can get our timing right and it should be apparent in the performances.

"Obviously, we had to pick up from two weeks ago (against England), there's still a lot to pick up from last weekend (against Wales), but I'd hope that the trajectory is heading in the right direction."

Like Schmidt, captain Rory Best is facing into his final home game for Ireland as he approaches the end of a stellar career after the World Cup.

And the skipper paid tribute to Schmidt as they prepared to bid farewell to the home crowd together.

"Joe just makes you get the detail right. He puts pressure on you. Any time we do simple drills he is screaming and shouting and the panic… You get the best 31 or, as it was, 41 (players) last week and he starts to scream at us and it is amazing the mistakes that come on," he said.

"And then it's the lessons that you can learn from that. He is probably the first coach I have worked with that has been able to get… Look you can never get the same level of pressure that you get on a Saturday afternoon at training.

"But he gets very close to it. And he gets very close to it by the way he is, the way he shouts, the way he moves around.

"I think if you can get close to that pressure in training then when you get to the games. You sort of talk about the games being easier than training and some people just say that, but I think sometimes that is the case with us because whenever Alun Wyn Jones or Maro Itoje start to shout, they never shout as loud as Joe does.

"You're used to all of this distraction and it allows you to focus. Look, he has been great. I must say, from an Ulster point of view, I was delighted when he got the Irish job because it meant he wasn't at Leinster anymore.

"We didn't win anything more whenever he left Leinster, but we certainly had a slightly better chance.

"He has been phenomenal. I think it's really hard to put into words how great a coach he is."

Meanwhile, Vodafone have extended their sponsorship of the Irish rugby team until 2024, while they will also become title sponsors of the Women's Interprovincial championship from next season.

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