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Wednesday 19 September 2018

New plan to take some time

Schmidt's detail must be married with traditional blood-and-guts passion

Ireland can not, will not, turn away from the path Joe Schmidt has put them on. Nor should they.

All the technique and detail in the world can not be put into practice until it is married with Ireland's traditional blood-and-guts passion.

The main problem for Ireland is that the players have spent a lot of time absorbing detail that is not yet instinctive to them.

They are on a crash-course. The international Test arena is not a place to learn. It is a place to finish what you have learned – see the All Blacks for details.

It just so happens it takes time. And patience. Look at England last November before they got to the All Blacks. Look at Australia earlier this summer.

A change of guard means a change of ways. A change of outlook. A change of mindset.

How could Ireland be ready for the best in the world? They have had less than four weeks to put into operation what Australia and New Zealand have been honing and, most importantly, playing all summer – the All Blacks for much longer.

Are Ireland still thinking, when they should be doing? "There could be an element of that," admitted hooker Rory Best.

"You can see it every time when we take the field that it's becoming more and more off-the-cuff. We're not pre-planning moves in meetings and then going out and running them.

"It's now off-the-cuff. He's (Joe Schmidt) throwing a couple of moves at us and we're able to run them. It is going to take a little bit of time."

Best was keen to push the idea that it can all click into place this weekend: "That's got to be now, doing our homework so we come in again on Friday to train and it becomes second nature.

"Then, we can worry just about bringing a bit of emotion.

"Sometimes in an Ireland jersey, because we've got so much technically better, we forget that Ireland teams of the past were a lot based on physicality and emotion.

"Sometimes you've just got to trust that you know the detail and go out and let a bit of emotion flow."

This is all very well. The fact is the players won't know whether they know it instinctively until they are right there in the heart of the battle. They didn't against Australia.

There is attack and there is defence. Forwards coach John Plumtree was not about to play as softly as the Ireland defence did against Australia.

"We leaked four soft tries which the Australians didn't have to work too hard to get," he said.

31ST TRY:

Mistake 1: Brian O'Driscoll had Cian Healy and Devin Toner just inside him covering Quade Cooper. Instead of trusting them, he shot in leaving an opening for Stephen Moore to put Nick Cummins away.

Mistake 2: Cummins was one-on-one against Rob Kearney with Eoin Reddan covering across. The scrum-half over-chased to squeeze Kearney's space allowing Cummins to beat two defenders with one side-step.

"They took us wide once, back to wide and the next minute they were scoring under the posts. That's unacceptable," said Plumtree.

32ND TRY:

Mistake: The naivety of Robbie Henshaw was exposed when he showed little or no urgency to mind Michel Hooper, eventually falling over as the openside went in unopposed.

For Plumtree's explanation, read the previous quote for what was a carbon copy try with Henshaw temporarily introduced for O'Driscoll into a passive, stand-off defence.

33RD TRY:

Mistake: Ian Madigan held his position as Matt Toomua came back on the angle, leaving Luke Marshall to take Quade Cooper. He didn't react.

"We didn't apply any pressure (at the scrum) and we got it wrong defensively that allowed Quade Cooper in and those were soft points," said Plumtree.

34TH TRY:

Mistake: Devin Toner went to compete at the Australian line-out. The throw went over his head, leaving his pod out of position to defend the maul.

"There was a driving line-out that we knew was coming but we didn't deal with it and that was disappointing because we knew it was coming."

This is a terrible litany of schoolboy errors. Plumtree did not hide from them and defence coach Les Kiss would have been angered by the failure of his men to deliver his messages.

Kiss has been here since 2008. He is not new to them. The players owe him. Big time. The fact is he has done a very sound job for Ireland as a defensive specialist, even patenting the Kiss, or Choke, tackle.

Apparently, it is easier to fix a defence than create in attack. Defence is mostly a mindset. Imaginative attack requires skills. This is the best news of the week for Ireland.

They actually had more line-breaks last Saturday than the Australians – 8-5 – and this shows that the players can put into practice what they are learning.

They have to finish what they start on both sides of the ball.

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