Saturday 16 December 2017

Schmidt: This is the biggest game of my career

Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt has described Saturday's clash as one of the biggest tests of his coaching career to date.

"I haven't got a context for it," he said. "Trying to plot the downfall of any New Zealand team was tough and we gave that a go. Going to Bordeaux to beat Clermont, there have been some that stick out in my mind, but none as big as this."

Schmidt said centre Brian O'Driscoll trained fully today and would be fine to take his place.

"He probably could have trained and you get to that level and he is allowed to use to get his get out of jail free card and got time off. He trained well today," he said.

"He's bounced back fully (from Wales), trained on Monday and again on Thursday so he has trained twice this week."

The Ireland head coach has named the same team back-to-back for the first time as Ireland coach, but admits keeping the  same starting XV was not an easy choice for the former Leinster coach.

"It wasn't straightforward, some guys played well on the weekend with the provinces, but it is hard to gauge the jump from Pro12 to Test rugby and I think it is quite a gap. The guys who have been involved have played well in first two games."

The decision to pick rising Leinster star Jordi Murphy over Munster's Tommy  O'Donnell on the replacements bench was down to the Tipperary man's need to get game time and the form the Leinster back-row player has shown this season.

"Right from the very start we felt those two would move in and out to get game time," he said. "Tommy didn't have much game time at all at the start and, for him to get a couple of games over the next two weeks and Jordi has more games.. It is an opportunity for him."

Ireland skipper Paul O'Connell is expecting a step up against the English side who are playing their first home game of the campaign.

"There is confidence, but it is realistic," he said. "Wales off their best and I think the lads realise how big a step up the game against England at Twickenham is going to be. There is a realistic level of where we have to be at the weekend and guys know what they have to get right."

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