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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Joeball: Why Joe Schmidt's philosophy is working for Ireland

Schmidt has to handle Warren's G-Force in Welsh war of attrition

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt

THERE has been Warrenball and, now, there is Joeball.

If you look up Warrenball in the rugby dictionary, it would go something like this: "we are bigger and stronger than you and we're coming straight at you".

The direct G-Force physicality of the Welsh comes down to domination of collisions allied to the goal-kicking of Leigh Halfpenny.

If you match them physically and maintain squeaky clean discipline, Wales struggle for a Plan-B.

England showed how they can be disarmed and disembowelled.

You have to meet them head-on and then apply your method of moving forward.

Wales like to use their defence as an offensive weapon, taking away your space, your gain line and going hand-to-hand for 80 minutes.

REVELS

Gatland embraces controversy and revels in the psychological warfare that will make up the pre-amble towards the fireworks at The Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The most relevant in terms of Wales-Ireland was his claim back in 2009 ahead of the Grand Slam finale in Cardiff.

"Of all the teams in the Six Nations the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most," he said back then.

This is an assertion that has since been strenuously denied, most recently by Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip at the weekend.

"I don't know where all that came from. Maybe, at the time, it just suited Warren's agenda," said Heaslip.

"I love the Welsh lads, they're great craic. It's always good to catch up with guys like Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Alex Cuthbert or Alun Wyn Jones."

The latest orchestrated grenade came from their respected defence coach Shaun Edwards, who cited the use of 'The Choke Tackle' as "a blight on the game".

"I think it's very dangerous. I think it encourages people to tackle high," explained Edwards.

"Everyone is going on about concussions and people tackling too high. Well, let's start with that."

The problem with his allegation is that the choke, developed by Ireland defence coach Les Kiss, has been around for years.

Edwards came up with this objection two weeks before Ireland were due in Wales, one week before Ireland were due to combat England.

If you looked up Joeball in the rugby dictionary, it would go something like this: "we will exploit our strengths and your weaknesses".

Schmidt said as much in the build-up to England: "I don't think any coach is solely one thing or the other.

"I think any coach first of all looks at their own players.

"What are our players better at than others? What do our players get confidence from?

"And you start from there as your base and then you look at your opponents."

EFFECTIVE

Ireland's air-game has been incredibly effective against France and England. It would be inconceivable to move away from it now.

They have to play on what Matt O'Connor calls their "competitive advantage" which is to use the refined skills of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton to dissect Wales.

Away from the game, the current Ireland coach has absolutely no inclination to get embroiled in controversy, taking the exact opposite position to Gatland.

There is limited access to management and players, compared to other more open countries, with all parties to the Schmidt Accord singing off the same hymn sheet.

Presumably, the idea is run along the lines of 'hear no evil, see no evil,' giving Wales, or whoever, no external motivation to get their dander up.

When the Ireland-England occasion was ridiculously billed as 'the championship decider,' Schmidt rightly turned the other cheek.

"I've got too much respect for my old mates Warren Gatland and Vern Cotter in Wales and Scotland," he reacted.

"One of those two teams will come back into the competition with a win and it's all on again."

He knows from the fine margins that exist everywhere that anything that lends to Wales being better is worse for Ireland.

Guess what?

He was right. It is all on again.

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