Thursday 27 June 2019

Schmidt: We can not get stung again

Coach rubbishes Horgan's allegations of 'nostalgia'

Joe Schmidt Picture: Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt Picture: Sportsfile

Experience is hard to beat. It was the single most important consideration for Joe Schmidt as moving day fast approaches.

He knows from his own experience from the three previous Six Nations and three-fifths of this one.

The championship will be as hard won this year as it was in 2014 and 2015.

"It is the same as it ever was," said Ireland's head coach. "We won the first one by a differential of ten points, the next one by a differential of five points."

The last thing Schmidt or Wales' Rob Howley want is a bunny caught in the headlights of a Friday night at The Principality Stadium.

Once Rob Kearney proved his fitness and Jared Payne didn't, the Irish selection took care of itself.


For the first time in 2017 Schmidt has been able to name the same side in what is a luxury as Ireland pursue a degree of improvement and smother rhythm to their play.

Heck, the out-of-form Tommy Bowe has won the argument over Craig Gilroy, the hat-trick hero from Rome, and the in-form Andrew Conway, to take up the last seat on the bench in the most outstanding example of the past winning out over the present and future.

Schmidt rubbished Shane Horgan's previous assertion that the involvement of Bowe was one made out of nostalgia.

"We try to base our decision on how a player is performing," he said. "I've coached Shane and there's probably been times when people have questioned my selecting him in the past.

"There's no way I'd say we get it right every time because there's a human factor in coaching, just as there is in playing.

"I'm not sure whether, over the last three and a half, four years, how many nostalgic decisions I've made. But, I can't really remember many."

This is shorthand for the truth. Schmidt does not do nostalgia. He never has in his tenure. What he does do is experience, proven track record and believing what he is seeing.

"If you look at his (Bowe) last two Ulster performances, you can see his ability to read the game, to run a good line, to be in the right place at the right time.

"His aerial game is a real strength for him and, for us, that's where they came after us last time."

It says everything about the logic of Schmidt's choice of 1-to-23 that the only query came about a player in the replacements.

Besides, the coach is more concerned about how Ireland start this one.

"We have already been stung once by going in (against Scotland) a little bit undercooked and not being at the same heightened level that our opponents were," he shared.

The measure for the perfect pitch of emotion will have to be met or England will probably come to Dublin with everything to play for against Ireland leaning on hometown pride alone.

"It is a difficult question to answer and it is a difficult one to know quite what will then happen," he said.

"Emotionally our players will be up. They have to be because you can't miss a beat because the margins are so fine."

It could well come down to how Ireland do in the trenches occupied by Sam Warburton, Jake Ball, Ken Owens and Ross Moriarty.

"I think Wales are very dogmatic," said Schmidt.

"They're very hard to beat back and beat down. They'll always come back at you.

"Even if you get that good start like we did last year, you have to keep playing at them, keep them under pressure.

"As soon as you give them some sort of pressure release, they get some ill-discipline and get a good field position they can launch from."

The message is clear.

Ireland have to start as they mean to continue or they will be in trouble in a raucous atmosphere.

Ireland: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Wales: L Halfpenny; G North, J Davies, S Williams, L Williams; D Biggar, R Webb; S Evans, K Owens, T Francis, J Ball, AW Jones (capt), S Warburton J Tipuric, R Moriarty.

Probably been times when people have questioned my selecting him (Horgan) in the past.

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