Sunday 20 October 2019

'When you look at the stats I am really happy' - Joe Schmidt gives positive view of win over Russia

Ireland players reacts after the final whistle during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe City. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Ireland players reacts after the final whistle during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe City. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Kobe

Joe Schmidt has declared himself happy with Ireland’s 35-0 win and performance against Russia in Kobe.

His side remain in control of their own Pool A destiny having scored five tries in the victory, but the display was a laboured one in tough conditions beneath the roof at the Misaki Stadium.

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The coach pointed to the wet ball as a major factor in his side’s third quarter malaise but was pleased with other elements of their game.

Asked how far away his team are from being realistically able to challenge South Africa or New Zealand in a World Cup quarter-final, the coach said he was only focused on playing Samoa on Saturday week.

"I do think we’ve got to take it one game at a time, particularly having lost last week," he said.

"So we will set our sights on Samoa because we need to win there to have a chance of qualifying and as I said if we get a win with a little bit more we know we’re in a quarter-final, we control that ourselves.

"In the end, when you get to a quarter-final everything hinges on the quarter-final itself. It becomes very much a one-off game and one thing I learned from last time at the World Cup is that you can be on an upswing but if you’ve got injuries or you’ve got a little bit of a confidence hit because you’ve got a number of new guys in…

"We made 11 changes today and we got the performance that we needed.

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"People will maybe have expected more of the performance but when you look at the stats I am really happy with the performance and the outcome that we got.

"Yes, there were a number of errors but we created a number of pressure points that we’d be pretty happy with."

Schmidt was particularly pleased with his side’s start, saying the sweaty conditions got worse as the game progressed.

"There were more things that pleased me, definitely. We started well again, we got those two early tries as we did last time. Then, we made a bit of hard work of it," he said.

"One of the plans we had for this evening was to get a few scores early, because speaking to the guys who played here for the last two times, the longer the game goes (on) the more moisture there is in the air, on the ground, on the ball and on the players themselves.

"So, we knew it was going to get more and more difficult as time went on.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt reacts during the warm up before the Pool A win over Russia in Kobe Misaki Stadium
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt reacts during the warm up before the Pool A win over Russia in Kobe Misaki Stadium

"That was probably a bit of consternation in that third quarter when we didn't get the bonus point try, but thankfully it was great to see Andrew Conway streak away and get that try and then to finish with the best try of the night at the end, just to get that 35 point differential... to keep a clean sheet is always great, the Russians have certainly have got a bit to offer.

"They gave up nothing defensively, I felt we made some really good line-breaks but behind the linebreaks they fought really hard and made it very difficult to get anything on the back of those, albeit that we scored a couple of nice tries.

"I thought Johnny (Sexton) saw a nice bit of space for the second try that Peter O'Mahony scored, obviously the set-play to start the game was great. Rob Kearney went through and carried all the way to score it.

"He probably had three or four support players who could have helped him out.

"It was nice to get that front foot early, nice to get the bonus point."

Schmidt was quick to issue a reminder that neither England or Scotland impressed greatly when winning at this venue earlier in the tournament.

"I don't think we lost our way, I just think we didn't convert some chances and when you look back there were some really good chances,” he said of the second and third quarters.

"Both in the first and second-half, I felt our maul got going really well and we didn't get anything on the back of it a few times.

"Rhys (Ruddock) finished his try when he muscled up with a bit of help from John Ryan.

"And then, in that third quarter, there was a bit of frustration. On the back of CJ Stander's line-break where we got very close to scoring, it was frustrating that we lost the ball in the tackle.

"So, yeah, at the same time I'm pretty realistic about how tough conditions were out there having talked to the players afterwards and I felt that we controlled a good amount of the game, albeit not necessarily scoring in behind that.

"I think, watching the games that have been played here previously, I think England maybe got five tries against Tonga and were made to work pretty hard to get the bonus point as well.

"So, I don't think it will cause too much frustration. In this tournament, you get what you need from each game as much as you possibly can.

"We've got 11 points from the pool, we still keep control of whatever outcome we get at the end of the pool and we've got to aim up at Samoa now and make sure that we put in a performance.

"If we get a win there, then we know we're in the mix.

"If we get a win, and anything else, then we know we've qualified. We just need to wait for that final pool game between Japan and Scotland to find out where we fall in the pool."

Ireland travel south to Fukuoka tomorrow and, after a busy two weeks, will give his players some down-time over the weekend.

"Getting down to Fukuoka tomorrow will be a positive for us. We'll give the lads a weekend off and then we'll get into our normal work week and see what we can do next Saturday," he said.

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