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Joe Schmidt Plays Down Ireland's Chances As Wonderful Year Ends

Joe Schmidt Plays Down Ireland's Chances As Wonderful Year Ends
By Conor O'Leary

Joe Schmidt is forever playing down Ireland's chances. After the wonderful year that the national team have had, one could be forgiven for thinking that Ireland could be set for something special in 2015.

The mood in Carton House last week during the mini camp reflected the calendar that we've just had. It had been 5 years since a championship, and 8 since a clean sweep in the Autumn series. Never before have Ireland achieved so much with so many players, with the pool of talent available to Schmidt extremely deep.

With Schmidt now overcome a bout of appendicitis and having had time to digest and analyse the November games, he's been in a position to reflect, and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead in the coming months.

He reflects on November, and the aspect that pleases him most is when the players were coming off disappointed against South Africa after conceding a last minute try.

To be 29-10 up with time almost up on the clock and the disappointment of the players when the walked off that they had conceded the last try, that was encouraging as well because they could afford to - they weren't going to lose a Test match - but they felt they had set a benchmark during the game that they should have done better with.

Schmidt was delighted with the leadership and stamina of the players, which he felt was most evident in the final minutes of the Australia game. Schmidt highlights O'Connell leading from the front, and Rhys Ruddock's energy as particularly impressive aspects from those few moments.

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Schmidt Plays Down Expectations

Ireland now go into the 6 Nations as second favourites - to England - a place that suits Schmidt down to the ground. He is wary of the threat that the Italians will pose, highlighting the two previous visits to Rome didn't go exactly as planned, with a last minute kick avoiding defeat in 2011, while the last visit to Rome ended in defeat which spelled the end for Declan Kidney.

Schmidt is already thinking about the World Cup, and will use the 6 Nations to build combinations. Ireland's games against South Africa and Australia were notable for their lack off offloading from the men in green, but Schmidt wants players to be in control of the ball and know how the players react around one another. It's about controlling the ball, says Schmidt, but Schmidt doesn't see an issue with offloading when the team get used to each other:

One of the things about the World Cup is we have a window that is extended as a lead-up, and I think then we can build combinations. Some of the combinations exist within provinces anyway, some of the combinations are being built over time playing in the national team together but at the same time for us, once you have got those combinations and those guys can be intuitive almost in knowing where people are, that is when you can be more effective offloading.

One knows that if anyone can instill familiarity between players, it's Schmidt. Ireland are nicely set up going into 2015, in a strong position, but not favourites from the Northern hemisphere to strike. One senses that Schmidt has meticulously planned it this way.

H/T Irish Independent

 

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