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Monday 18 December 2017

Schmidt looks to ireland positives

Leinster were a sight to open eyes under Joe Schmidt for three years.

Ireland have been anything but just two rounds into the Six Nations.

The New Zealander has cultivated the educated, urbane image of a genius coach with an attacking philosophy.

The more we see of Ireland the more we begin to change our minds about what he is about.

In Europe, Schmidt started out as an attack coach, in his three years as an assistant to Vern Cotter at Clermont-Auvergne, and evolved into a master of practicality to leave observers in something of a quandary.

He is a coach difficult to define. How does he define himself?

"I don't think any coach is solely one thing or the other," he said.

"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.

"Then, you try and put together a functional way of putting an attack together, but are flexible.

"I think we try to be functional and flexible," he continued.

"Functional in the sense that people have a general idea of where we are going because, if you don't and somebody goes off by himself there's a lot of big English players who are going to bully him.

"At the same time, be flexible so that if something does arise those key decision makers can make an instinctive decision and play the game and enjoy playing the game."

He put forth the theory Ireland are working towards a three-dimensional rugby identity as a run, pass and kick proposition.

"I suppose I'm less analytical about the past than I am about the present and what the immediate future is," he stated.

"I think one of the things at this level is that every player is very proficient, so it is tougher to break down.

"If you play a two-dimensional game. You can only pass the ball backwards so if you want to go forward you've got to pass it backwards and then carry it forward.

"The only other way to progress the ball is to use the boot and, so I think, you've got to be proficient in using all three aspects of the game, and I suppose that's probably what I mean by it."

He countered the assertion Ireland have become a boring lump it and chase it proposition, unwilling or unable to full embrace Schmidt's previous template for heads-up rugby.

"Yeah look, I am not too aware of how we are perceived, but I know we have kicked less than some other teams in the Championship so far," said.

He went one step further in identifying England as the country which has kicked more than any other in the Six Nations.

"If people have a look they might find it is our opponents at the weekend," he smiled.

"You know we have no doubt that their kicking game is very strong. I think if they have kicked the ball the number of times they have kicked very, very effectively."

Schmidt leaves the impression of a rugby-aholic, an insomniacal sponge for knowledge.

"I am a bit of quiet observer of the Premiership and the Top 14," he offered, in the understatement of the year.

"Obviously having coached in European competitions for six years prior to taking this job, you see a lot of those players.

"You know the quality they have and you cannot afford to be careless in how you do things because they will counter attack and hurt you."

He went on to describe the virtues of England's back three Alex Goode, Anthony Watson and how best to break down their team.

"You can't kick carelessly to this English team. You can't carry predictably because they will bash you there.

"Therefore, I think it is going to be a real test of whatever our players can put together. I don't think we can be one-dimensional."

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