Friday 23 August 2019

'I know it's happened to us' - Joe Schmidt claims Ireland have been victims of spying

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Sportsfile

Tom Cary

Ireland have ratcheted up tensions ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash with England in Dublin by claiming that they have been the victims of "spying".

Joe Schmidt, Ireland's head coach, would not say who he suspected of the subterfuge but said he "knows it happens".

Spying in sport has been in the news recently following Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa's admission that he spied on rival teams' training sessions.

Schmidt and his England counterpart, Eddie Jones, were happy to laugh about the subject at the Six Nations launch in London on Wednesday, with Jones joking that he was off to purchase a pair of binoculars to spy on Ireland at their training camp in Portugal. The squads have been near-neighbours during their preparations on the Algarve.

But Schmidt now claims Ireland really have been spied on, and that he was "kind of disappointed" when he found out.

"I would have to say that I'm not a believer in it," the Kiwi said. "I don't think that it's necessary. I would still like to think there is a sense of fair play. I love some of the amateur values that still exist in rugby. But I know it happens. I know it's happened to us."

Asked how often it had happened, and how he had found out, Schmidt said that he had "stumbled on it" but did not disclose who had been involved in the espionage.

Ireland are one of a number of sides who have stopped taking part in the traditional captain's runs at opposition stadiums on the eve of matches.

International Rugby Newsletter

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

"It's happened a couple of times," he said. "I think when it filters back you are disappointed but you kind of acknowledge, 'OK, it's their process. It's their way of collecting information'. You just shrug your shoulders.

"But I don't think you can get distracted by it. And if you became paranoid about it you'd never train properly. You'd always be worried by somebody looking. We always say, 'If they spy on us but we do it well enough, maybe, we'll still be able to get a result'."

Jones admitted last weekend that he used to have rival teams' training sessions spied on many years ago, but insisted he had long since given up the practice.

"Fifteen years ago, we used to send people out in costumes to watch training - it used to be part of the pre-match brief. I can remember sending a coach, who is now in a senior position, dressed like a swagman to watch one team train and he got chased out of there. You don't need to do it now because you see everything in a game.

"I have been coaching for 20 years and it has always been going on but I can say with a hand on my heart, we don't do it any more. We don't see the value of it because we can glean most of the stuff from games now."

Jones is unconcerned that his side are regarded as underdogs for the fixture, and has drawn on the experience of England's 2017 defeat in Dublin which denied his side a second successive Grand Slam.

"I have been there a number of times with various teams and it has always been a tough game," Jones added. "They are a good country, have got passionate fans, the conditions are always pretty consistent there. I have never played there when it hasn't rained so I know what to expect. We just have to be good enough to deal with them.

"You have got to have clarity about your game-plan, you have got to feel physically right and then you have got to adapt to the conditions.

"You know the crowd is going to put pressure on the referee, you know that, that is part of the game there, so you have got to be good enough to get yourselves out of situations where you allow that to happen."

Sunday Indo Sport

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport