Thursday 19 September 2019

'It's a nice label to get but the label is not relevant' - Schmidt plays down World Cup hopes for top ranked Ireland

Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt during the Guinness Summer Series match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo. Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt during the Guinness Summer Series match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo. Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
David Kelly

David Kelly

Joe Schmidt shrugged off his side's ascension to the number one spot in world rugby after his Irish side's victory against Wales.

"I didn't even realise we were number one until after the game," said Schmidt, who immediately played down Ireland's World Cup chances.

"It's a nice label to get, nice to be there for the first time. We've picked a few teams off over the past few years but the label is not relevant.

"We all know who the favourites are for the World Cup and it is certainly not us. "

Schmidt and captain Rory Best both bade farewell to an Aviva Stadium which has witnessed so many memorable triumphs by completing confidence-boosting back-to-back successes against Warren Gatland's men.

"Relief is the primary emotion," added the Kiwi, who admitted that it wasn't "pretty".

"The boys seem in good spirits and hopefully we're unscathed. It's the performance we're proud of.

"We made 40 tackles in the first quarter but then built our way into the game. It wasn't necessarily pretty to watch.

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"The World Cup is huge so your focus is on the next game rather than the past. It was good to take the emotion out of it.

"I was here with my family for the first game of rugby when the ground was renovated. It's phenomenal for such an open stadium that it generates so much noise.

"We're lucky with that support and that was evident with Rory's deserved ovation."

Best received a rapturous ovation when he was withdrawn in the second-half.

"This place is incredibly special," he said. "There have been some wonderful memories, some you use to make yourself better.

"It's nice for my mum and dad, my wife and family to hear the reception I received. It feels like you've done more things right than wrong over the years.

"But ultimately today was about building on last week. The applause was nice but the performance was more important.

"We laid a marker down in terms of the physicality last week and that was another step today. We'll get on the plane on Wednesday with some confidence.

"We started the second-half by holding on to possession better, controlling territory and doing well at the breakdown.

"We knew we couldn't just defend, we needed to control the ball."

Keith Earls was the only potential worry for Ireland but the coach revealed that his star winger's injury is not as bad as many within the stadium might have feared.

Keith is walking around okay, "said Schmidt, who confirmed the player got a "whack in the quad".

"We'll have to wait and see. He could potentially have played on, he felt like it but there was no point in those circumstances."

Schmidt also praised the impact of second-row Jean Kleyn, who overcame a difficult start to the game after a tumultuous week when his selection ahead of Devin Toner prompted widespread comment.

"Solid but not spectacular, he's a good man for us in the engine room. James Ryan was James Ryan really. He keeps setting the bar for himself and keeps jumping over it."

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