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Schmidt: we must live up to the hype

When it comes to managing expectations even Joe Schmidt cannot be too sure of where this is all going.

Can the Irish players handle the heat that comes with being Six Nations champions and replacing Australia as the number three nation in the World Rankings?

"I think we'll find out. I've no doubt that we're feeling more pressure this week," he said.

Schmidt has worked night and day to protect his players' feet from leaving the ground, all the while putting in place the 'mental gym' work to stay true to the path they are on.

"There's a point in time where, hopefully, the extraneous pressure gets superseded by an internal belief and internal focus on what you're looking to achieve," he said.

"I'm not sure you can shield the team from the public eye and the public expectation because, in the end, they live in amongst them. Their family and friends are a part of it."

The natural worrier inside of Schmidt prevents the whole embrace of expectations based on a year of work.

It does come on the back of the evidence of improvement through winning and that can create a psychological monster to deal with.

"I'd like to think it's no harm," he stated.

"I'd like to think we can buffer ourselves with an internal belief and an internal focus on what we feel we have to achieve to win the game and not be distracted by it, even be motivated by it.

"The fear factor exists in all of us because we don't want to let people down."

Winning is an addiction. It is habit forming. From there, the bandwagon starts to roll.

We've seen it all before. There was Ulster in 1999. There was Munster in 2006. There was Leinster in 2009.

There was the Eddie O'Sullivan era when consistently high levels of performance duped Ireland into talking themselves up as World Cup contenders in 2007.

And they fell flat on their faces.

Now, Irish rugby has come full circle again. Consistency has led to confidence. This has awakened a nation's right to dream.

And that can be dangerous.

"We know that this has been sold out for a long time. We know that the crowd want to be there to support the team and they want the team to be accurate enough, to be physical enough to merit that support.

"The players are really aware of that.

"I guess there's that motivation factor, that level of anixiety that's positive."

As with everything in life, there comes a tipping point when something good and sweet can sour before your eyes.

"When it gets beyond that positive point, it can start to manifest itself in some very negative anxiety and have a detrimental effect."

With expectation comes suffocating pressure to deliver time after time.

"People have this expectation for a reason. Let's try to provide the reason," said Schmidt.

"Expectation is there because we anticipate something happening based on what we've seen before, our past experience.

"That's how kids learn. That's how the world turns," he said.

"We want to live up to that expectation."


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