Thursday 19 September 2019

With the stakes so high, Joe Schmidt moved his World Cup announcement because he had to

Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt prior to the international friendly at The Principality Stadium, Cardiff last Saturday
Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt prior to the international friendly at The Principality Stadium, Cardiff last Saturday

Des Berry

It turns out Joe Schmidt didn’t get what he wanted this time.

Too often, this has been the case since England turned the country upside down last February.   

When the Ireland coach spoke of his wish to withhold the official 31-man World Cup squad until next weekend, it was probably centred around the avoidance of a follow-up media inquisition in which decisions would have to be explained in detail.

In reality, it was always going to be nothing more than wishful thinking as the names had to be submitted to World Rugby today.

Anyway, the proposed delay would have been interpreted as a challenge too good to turn down to the outside media.

This morning, not long after the cock-crowed, the Independent.ie pipped The 42, by mere minutes, to most of the relevant decisions, chief among them the ditching of Devin Toner.    

Not long after, RTE published the complete list of men that will do-or-die in Japan. 

Even before then, the presumptions had been written and the predictions made, some down to investigative work, some down to nothing more solid than guesswork.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

Understandably, Schmidt has always looked to stay in control of the narrative when it comes to why players are in or out.

In line with that, the coach spoke to RTE this morning to get ahead of the storm that will blow up around the preference of the "specialist tight-head" virtues of Jean Kleyn over Toner’s proven worth as "a lineout champion."

Otherwise, the week would have evolved into a murderous chase for information based around if and why Toner had been left behind, where does Jack McGrath go from here – other than to Ulster - how Jordi Murphy and Will Addison might regret the move to Ulster. 

All the while, Schmidt would have been trying to focus on the job at hand, putting together the performance that could dare a nation to dream.

The last thing Schmidt can afford, or will abide, is anything that will get in the way of Ireland doing what they have to against Wales on Saturday.

For, this weekend, the world number two and number one nations are expected to go all-out for victory with all-in selections of their best players.      

Win and Ireland can finally take the confidence that has not been there to draw on.

Lose and the doubts will continue to grow over where in the world (rankings) they actually are.

Schmidt has changed his plan because he had to.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport