Wednesday 21 February 2018

'We were afforded more time and space'- Schmidt coy on Ireland's attacking verve against hapless Italy

Tom Rooney

Joe Schmidt has said that the sporadic sparks of flowing rugby Ireland played when trouncing Italy today can only materialise when the opposition are obliging.

It’s probably trite at this point to mention that the once universally beloved Kiwi coach has had his share of detractors of late, who have decried both his selections and conservative tactics.

There have been those who have baulked at the unwavering message coming from the Irish camp between the games that Schmidt has never shackled his players’ creative inclinations.

Until today’s nine try extravaganza, which also yielded 14 line breaks and nine offloads, Ireland had crossed the whitewash just twice, while failing to record a win over Wales, France or England.

Talking to RTÉ Sport, Schmidt intimated that it was Italy’s porous defending that allowed Ireland to cut loose as much as any refined offensive scheme.

“We were probably afforded a little bit more space than we have been in recent weeks; we had three really tough teams first up, but that allowed us open the game up and play a bit,” Schmidt claimed.

“I thought that we were reasonably solid starting off and sort of grew into the game, and as we grew into the game we probably lost our way in the last quarter due to all the changes we made, which is disappointing.

“At the same time, it was great to get the win on the board and do it with a little bit of room to spare. It’s great to see that, it’s great to watch that and when you’re afforded the space and opportunity to play like that, it’s exactly how you want to play.”

Naturally, the defensive structures and intensity employed by Wales, England and even France are far more potent than anything this hapless Italian side can offer, but it’s there Schmidt left the question of Ireland playing more expansively.

Furthermore, he expects Scotland to be an obdurate outfit, so it’s unclear if any trend will emerge from this afternoon at the Aviva.

“We’ve been squeezed for time and space by the teams we’ve played so far, and no doubt Scotland will squeeze us next week and we’ll try to deliver the very best we can and hopefully it’ll contain a little bit of open rugby as it was today. And even as it was in the second half against England and the last time we were here against Wales.”

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