Wednesday 16 October 2019

Open warfare as Schmidt's roof call angers Welsh


Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Ireland have already upset the locals with theirs insistence that the Principality Stadium roof remains open for today's Six Nations finale against Wales.

Joe Schmidt has defied Warren Gatland's wish to close the roof to the elements despite the storm warning hanging over Cardiff today. The decision has been met with criticism in Wales where they are gearing up for a Grand Slam party, but Rory Best was unapologetic as he brushed off the issue yesterday.

Ireland can still retain their title if they win and England lose to Scotland at Twickenham, but the captain, who is making his final Six Nations appearance, is focused on finishing the tournament with a victory that would secure a top two finish and see them head towards the World Cup having regained the momentum they lost in their opening-day defeat to England.

"It is really important for us to show progress," he said. "Obviously, after that England game we thought we had taken a step back in just everything really.

"I thought we had prepared really well but for whatever reason we didn't perform but we looked a lot more like ourselves last week.

"But for us we have got to make sure we get better, because we are going to have to be better this week and then when the Six Nations finishes we will have to address why we have started the last couple of seasons and our autumn series reasonably slow.

"We have got to make sure we leave the Six Nations at a point we can build on. We don't want to have a drop to go up again. How can we keep pushing it up?

"Ultimately, we want to ensure that bar is as high as possible leaving the Six Nations. I think it is going to have to be a fairly complete 80 minutes," added the Ireland skipper.

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"We are going to have to make sure we don't slacken off, lose any moments of concentration because with Wales, the ability have in the centre, the speed they have out wide and the forward power they have in there, they are going to capitalise."

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones questioned Ireland's motivations in keeping the roof open, but insisted the issue wouldn't affect the result. "We know, as players, that it's going to be open," the second-row said.

"You'd have to ask the Irish guys about what their mentality is.

"We've trained here on a few occasions with it open and closed.

"That's for the alickadoos, isn't it? I don't wear a shirt and tie long enough to make those decisions. At the end of the day, the pitch and conditions are the same for both teams."

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