Wednesday 19 December 2018

Age no limit as Schmidt shuffles pack

Coach backs the oldest World Cup team ever to beat Romania

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt talks tactics with Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien during the squad training session at St George's Park, Burton-upon-Trent yesterday ahead of tomorrow's World Cup clash with Romania at Wembley
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt talks tactics with Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien during the squad training session at St George's Park, Burton-upon-Trent yesterday ahead of tomorrow's World Cup clash with Romania at Wembley
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt has backed the World Cup's oldest side to deliver a second victory for Ireland as he looks to build on the momentum generated last week against Canada by beating Romania.

The Ireland coach made 12 changes to his team yesterday, retaining captain Jamie Heaslip, Jared Payne and Keith Earls while selecting Ian Madigan ahead of Paddy Jackson at out-half.

With an average age of 29 years and 245 days, the New Zealander has named the oldest team in Rugby World Cup history for tomorrow's game against the Oaks who suffered defeat to France on Wednesday - despite leaving 35-year-old captain Paul O'Connell on the bench.

Romania coach Lynn Howells, meanwhile, has named their most experienced ever side despite making eight changes to the team that lost to France on Wednesday after losing flanker Valentin Ursache to suspension for a dangerous tackle.

"We're at our oldest, they're at their most experienced, so everyone's throwing the zimmer-frames out and it's going to be full on," Schmidt said yesterday.

"For us it's not so much building on anything, it's probably solidifying a couple of things because Romania pose a different threat.

"The way they put pressure on the French line-out is a lot different to what Canada did last week. Canada didn't really go after the ball in the air whereas Romania got a lot of pressure in the air. So we're going to have to be really accurate there.

"Canada didn't go after our scrum; we know that that's something Romania demonstrated against France. I'm not sure that they always go about it the right way but they get the right result in the end.

"The other part is the breakdown. Canada have included (flanker, Nanyak) Dala this week to put a bit more pressure on the breakdown because they didn't quite get that pressure last week.

"Watching Romania put that pressure through France made the breakdown a real battle for survival. So there's three areas that I wouldn't say we're trying to build on, we're just going to try to make sure we're solid on."

IRELAND TEAM FIXTURES 2018

Date / Time Teams

Asked what would represent a good day at the office, Schmidt replied: "It's getting those three areas locked on, if we can get the result with a little bit of breathing space that's a good day for me.

"I don't feel quite so much pressure in the coaching box if there's a bit of distance in the scoreboard, but I know that's not going to come easy.

"A good day at the office is if we can bank four points, I think what (Michael) Cheika said earlier in the week; if you're going through trying to win each game and that's your objective, if you manage that you qualify.

"It's making sure we get those parts of the game right and ideally then building the pressure that allows us the scoreboard separation and, if we can get that, if we can be beyond a score or two at least we can breathe a bit easier in the last 10 or 15 minutes."

Schmidt expressed his confidence that Robbie Henshaw would be fit to face Italy next week, while injured trio Johnny Sexton, Peter O'Mahony and Iain Henderson trained yesterday.

Irish Independent

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