Sunday 23 October 2016

Joe Schmidt: Ireland's aim in the World Cup is semi-final slot

Joe knows games against England can never just be called a 'warm-up'

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt let the cat out of the bag at Carton House and revealed his World Cup target.

"For us, we want to try to get to the last four, if we can. That's probably my hope," he said.

"I don't have any expectations of achievements. I have lots of hopes. I probably just have an expectation that we're going to work as hard as we can."

Now that the squad of many has been trimmed down to 31, the countdown to the eighth Rugby World Cup really begins.

The complications related to covering almost all bases in selection are a memory, not a formidable prospect.

It took six hours on Sunday to trawl through the evidence and to back it up with the coaches' opinions and instincts.

"The bit I really like about coaching is analysing opponents, trying to help our players to get better and it's out on the pitch.

"That's the bit I like the most," he said.

"Trying to decide what the best balance is, 'if this happens or that happens?', and you are trying to predict the future landscape of what may or may not occur in the World Cup and then try to cater for that as best you can, while also trying to optimise the threat you pose to opposing teams.

"It's just awkward to pull all those things together."

The inevitable questions started to come.

Why not Andrew Trimble? The omission of Ireland's 2014 player of the Year came down to injury and the lack of recent game-time.

Why not Marty Moore? "Marty wasn't really that selectable," said Schmidt.

"He was uppermost in our thinking. But we didn't have the clearance on him," adding in how his foot injury will take two to six weeks to heal.

"The foot was still annoying him and, therefore, if you can't do that you can't scrum and you can't get around the pitch and he is not going to ready on time really."

Why Tadhg Furlong over Michael Bent to cover both sides of the scrum?

"You know he covered for Leinster a couple of times last year on the loose-head. He wasn't actually employed in the game, but he had readied himself to cover.

"He is a big strong lad Tadhg and he is a very intelligent man, which just makes him very adaptable."

The competition for places inside the first 15 is not likely to thaw any time soon.

Take the second row. "I know players must feel a bit of pressure," he pointed out.

"Donnacha Ryan is an incredibly astute player, who's coming back into some of his best physical condition.

"Iain Henderson, again, reminded us of the athlete he is and Dev' Toner, with his improvements in the last two years, has contributed massively.

"While the skipper may still be untouchable in that group, I'm sure he doesn't feel like that sometimes when he sees what the other guys are delivering."

The fretting over going to the World Cup is finally over and there was an element of satisfaction for those who made it to training yesterday.

"We have got a lot of confidence in the group.

"We want them to demonstrate that confidence going out against England. That is a really tough last lead-in game.

"I'm not sure how any can ever call a match against England a warm-up.

"I don't think it computes with our guys and their guys are very similar."

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