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Saturday 16 December 2017

Schmidt believes it's not all bleak

Leinster coach sees positives for Irish despite heavy loss

LEINSTER'S double Heineken Cup-winning Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt is enjoying a holiday at home before returning to Dublin next month to begin pre-season work.

And, while he acknowledges that last Saturday's first test defeat was tough to take for the Irish, he believes there are positives in the amount of young players coming through the provinces and being blooded at international level.

"This is just my humble opinion - I don't have solutions," said Schmidt. "But I've spent time in both environments, and the problem in Ireland compared to New Zealand is the talent spread is thinner, so you have to maximise what you do have.

"That is difficult with injuries to senior guys. Paul O'Connell is a massive, massive loss, Stephen Ferris the same. Ireland can't afford that the way New Zealand can.

"But there is Irish talent coming through the provinces and they will get more games.

"Look at Toulon in the Top 14 final -- they started just five French players. One of the most encouraging things for us (Leinster) is the quality of Irish players coming through - and they have to be good because the Pro12 is a really good standard.

"Take Declan Fitzpatrick. I thought he had a phenomenally good game on his debut.

"And at hooker, you have got real quality. You have Rory (Best) with Ulster, Sean Cronin had a really good year with us and Mike Sherry looks a really dynamic player for Munster," he added.

"In terms of how the All Blacks view the Irish, having spoken to a few of them (All Blacks), they have a real respect for the individual Irish players. How significant it is not having O'Connell... and they know the value of Sean O'Brien, who won a lot of admirers last Saturday, as well as Brian (O'Driscoll).

"Do they see Ireland as the same sort of threat as the Wallabies, South Africa or even England and France?

"Probably not because, historically, it is hard to create a fear factor when you have never beaten them," said Schmidt.

"They can hurt the All Blacks - I thought Fergus McFadden's try was super.

"They said here it was a hack ahead by Jonny (Sexton) but he knew exactly what he was doing and it was beautifully executed.

"There are players in this Ireland team who know they are good enough, and maybe younger and less experienced guys find it tougher.

"But, if you get a good start and get into it a bit, belief will come to you.

"They will need a bit of luck, too."

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