Sunday 16 December 2018

'History doesn't protect you from the future' - Joe Schmidt relishing the chance to test England's home record

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt during the press conference after the match. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt during the press conference after the match. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
David Kelly

David Kelly

IRISH coach Joe Schmidt lost his voice before Ireland 's 28-8 win against Scotland but he was still able to roar out a defiant message as his side head to Twickenham looking to secure a Paddy Slam.

“I was calling a change in the warm-up and suddenly I had no voice left!” revealed the coach. “It was of a great relief to the players.”

After the 28-8, bonus-point win against Scotland, Schmidt's side are determined to complete the campaign by claiming a Grand Slam at the home of the team who succeeded them as back-to-back Six Nations champions.

“The motivation is in the squad. Rory Best has already spoken to the squad in the dressing-room to keep them focused.

“What I would say about this week is that you're always fatigued at this stage of the championship, there are always accumulated niggles that do make the last week a testing one anyway.

“We are just trying to to get everyone fit and then keen to train on Monday and Tuesday, and then by Thursday evening go to Twickenham and see what we can do there.”

Ireland have never lost under Schmidt in a championship game at home; Australian Eddie Jones is the owner of a similarly proud record with his English side.

And, after they were denied their own Slam in Dublin at this stage last season, they will be supremely motivated to poop Ireland's Paddy's Day party.

“History doesn't protect you from the future,” said Schmidt. “We hadn't lost in five years before today against Scotland.

“It didn't protect us, we had to do it again. We have to go to England and try to test their record out.

“If you can't motivate yourself against England, then you're in trouble. And if we're not very much in the game, they could get away from us very quickly with the athletes that they have in their team.

“If you don't keep going forward in this championship, you end up going backwards.”

Schmidt attempted to deflect any personal sense of triumph should Ireland complete their campaign with a Grand Slam and instead shifted to the focus on to his squad.

“It would give me incredible satisfaction to achieve that because I work with these young men who do an incredibly difficult job and work very hard.

“They are a tough bunch and acquit themselves in tough moments very well. That deservers to be rewarded and we will all work hard to try to get that reward this week.

“Satisfaction is based on the effort that is put in.”

Captain Rory Best – one of only two survivors from Ireland's 2009 Grand Slam, along with man of the match Rob Kearney – appreciates that the stakes will be massive next weekend.

“It will be a a big game, when you put yourself in a position to win everything, it becomes massive. They key for us is to make sure we approach it the same as every game.

“We never get ahead of ourselves, people get bored when we are saying that but we got another five points tonight and that is the way we have worked all championship.

“It is a big game for us because of what we have done this championship. We have tried to improve our performances week on week, game on game.

“Now we need to save the best to last and that is what we will need next week.

“It would be special to captain the team but it will be special for the entire squad of 30 or so players, those who have come off the bench and made an impact. That will be the same next week, we will need to dig deep.

“I am the captain but there are a lot of leaders in this squad and that showed today when they threatened to play chaotic rugby and we are able to take a breath and re-focus.

“We're in a bubble and when the job is going well you are shielded from all the hype. We are aware of how big a job it is, Eddie Jones has never lost there with England.

“We need to leave everything out there.”

Kearney is also driven by a sense of unfinished business despite this hitherto blemish-free campaign.

“We are massively determined to finish it off. We have put ourselves in an incredible position and chances like these never come around too often.”

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend believes it would be a significant feather in Ireland's cap were they to complete the clean sweep on English soil.

“It would be a huge achievement if they win a Slam. Getting an away win in France in the 82nd minute and then winning in Twickenham would be a huge achievement.

“There have not been many Slams in either of our countries down the years so it is always special when you win one.”

However, he vowed that his side will bounce back from this defeat before the sides clash in the opening 2019 World Cup game in Japan.

“We're three or four years off Ireland in terms of what they have achieved in recent times.

“These experiences are tough for us and this defeat needs to go into our work to improve when we play next year and then at the World Cup. They're an excellent side.”

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