Tuesday 15 October 2019

Schmidt wary of well-drilled hosts and forecast for humid conditions

Head coach Joe Schmidt arrives for squad training at the Yumeria Sports Grounds in Iwata, Japan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Head coach Joe Schmidt arrives for squad training at the Yumeria Sports Grounds in Iwata, Japan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Joe Schmidt always sees the pitfalls in any situation. Being an active worrier is just his way.

Aware that the bookmakers are offering a 21-point spread on tomorrow's meeting between his Ireland side and Japan, he'd likely argue that the difference in preparation times, humid conditions and home advantage will level the playing field.

The hosts struggled at times in their opener against Russia last week, but they've had eight days to recover from that game whereas Ireland had a six-day turnaround following their victory over Scotland.

Both coaches have made four changes for their second outings and while Schmidt enthused about his team's sharpness in the heat at the Yumeria Grounds yesterday, he'll be conscious that the forecast of 66 per cent humidity and 28-degree heat is not ideal.

"I think there's a sense of the elevation of the occasion because they're the host nation and the investment they've made in this team," he said.

"They've spent something like 180-200 days in camp, they invested a lot of time in each other to create the combinations that they so very effectively have shown. Maybe they were a little below par against Russia by their standards in their ball-transfer and accuracy, but we know that they can be flicked around... they've an eight-day turnaround as opposed to a six-day turnaround.

"So, while we were thrashing it out with Scotland they'd had a full day's recovery and a fantastic opportunity to have a good look at us.

"So, we're very conscious that they will be really well prepared, incredibly well supported and that elevates the occasion.

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"But, it's not something we're too distracted by. All we control is what we deliver on the pitch and we'll go out and try to deliver as best we can this Saturday just like we would if we were at home.

"That's what we can best control."

Although the win over Scotland was hugely satisfying for the New Zealander, he said there was plenty of scope for improvement.

"There's always elements of it, it was probably unusual for us to use Andrew Porter as a lineout option," he said. "I thought our lineout was super to be honest, our scrum was very, very strong.

"I think probably the turnover scrum we got, it kind of got away from Jack (Conan) but it was a nice square scrum that we went straight through.

"I do think the set-piece was a place where we were quite strong at, which is nice. We cleared our lines with some really good kicking.

"Conditions are a little bit tough even when it's dry just with the humidity, but the lads really enjoyed this morning's session. You can tell from the energy they put into it. I thought it was a super session for us. Maybe we'll be a little bit better in the air, I think that's somewhere we can improve. I thought defensively we were very, very good.

"We didn't really get the chance to play with too much width in the conditions and while Scotland did a little bit, I think some of the time we profited from that rather then them, because it was one of those days when you had to be a little bit more measured with your passing. They made a few errors and we probably got an opportunity to capitalise on the back of those.

"So I think you'll see more of us play with a bit more width but, again, that will depend a little bit on conditions, but the expectation is that the conditions are going to be better."

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