Rugby

Matt Williams Launches Attack On 'Embarrassing Hero Worship' Of Joe Schmidt

Matt Williams Launches Attack On 'Embarrassing Hero Worship' Of Joe Schmidt

Whether you agree or disagree with Matt Williams, you can't accuse him of being an opportunist. He was just as critical of Joe Schmidt's tactics BEFORE Ireland were dumped out of the World Cup as he has been in the subsequent months.

While appearing on TV3 as a pundit during the World Cup, Williams was particularly scathing of Jared Payne's attacking contribution, a point that was rubbished by nearly every single ex-player with a media presence.

With Ireland about to start their Six Nations campaign at home to Wales tomorrow, Williams used his column in the Irish Times to once again cast aspersions on Joe Schmidt's handling of the Irish team. Schmidt may have delivered two Six Nations titles out of two, but according to Williams, all those trophies and victories against northern hemisphere sides are ultimately hollow as Ireland haven't developed the expansive game plan he feels is required to unlock a southern hemisphere defence.

Despite the obvious evidence of the necessity for playing a running, attacking, ball-in-hand game, Ireland have persisted with a grinding, kick-for-position-then- win-a-penalty gameplan.

While that has delivered Six Nations titles, when deployed against the Southern Hemisphere teams it has had the same effect as taking a knife to a gun fight. You lose bad and bloody.

While everyone acknowledges that Ireland's attack could be more varied, it was the narrow defensive display that saw Argentina harvest Les Kiss' rearguard for five tries. But whatever about the reservations Williams has about Ireland's style, he saves his most astonishing broadside for the New Zealander in charge of the team.

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Not since George Hook asked for Schmidt's Leinster resignation three games into a Pro12 season has a pundit laid into the Kiwi so heavily.

The embarrassing hero worship at the altar of Joe Schmidt must end. The Leinster days were great, but they are over. In the World Cup campaign there were major selection errors and in terms of attack it was a tactical train wreck.

Tomorrow we need to see if Schmidt can embrace the challenge of creating space at international level and give us all hope that the men in green can chase the creative thinking from the south.

Joe, like several other coaches working in the Six Nations, is from the south, but not of the south.

There is no doubt that until Ireland's hammering at the hands of Argentina, fans would certainly go into every single game regardless of the opposition and simply say something like, 'Joe knows'.

Does that amount to 'embarrassing hero worship'? Perhaps it does but up until now the supporters' faith has almost always been rewarded.

Tomorrow will be a true test of the cult of personality built around the Ireland coach. The majority of people are frustrated that the option of Payne at 15 and Stuart McCloskey at 12 wasn't explored against Wales.

If Ireland lose, before travelling to Paris and London next, it will be very interesting to see if the previous two Six Nations wins insulate Schmidt from heavy criticism or if they actually are as hollow as Williams reckons them to be.

Watch: Watch: Fan Uses PS4 Controller In The Stands Of Ireland U20s Match

Read: 3 Irish Players Make The Telegraph Readers' All Time Six Nations XV

Will Slattery

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