Monday 11 December 2017

Schmidt: 'We're not spectators - we roll our sleeves up and get involved'

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt

It is not easy to wait five days to ask a question that's been burning a hole in your head.

When Ireland teetered on the brink of breaking Wales without having the vision to see what everyone outside the ruck could, a three-man overlap, you had to wonder what coach Joe Schmidt made of it.

"Yeah, as I said to them, you're not spectators," he replied. "The people in the crowd wave their arms. We roll our sleeves up and we get involved.

"While we want to keep width in our attack, we've got to make sure that there are opportunities to transfer that ball, not guys standing out there demanding that other people do it.

"I think some of the guys need to take a responsibility to make sure that they are involved in helping make those transfers happen.

"Sometimes your '9' (Conor Murray) and '10' (Jonathan Sexton) do get caught up and it's up to your '12' (Robbie Henshaw) and your '15' (Rob Kearney) to run that.

"Particularly for us, we do have a little inexperience at 12' but I don't think you could fault Robbie's form right through the championship so far.

"He'll grow into that first receiver role when it's demanded of him a little bit more as he gains experience."

There is a chasm in leadership without those two old warriors, D'Arcy and O'Driscoll, in midfield. It is a matter of riding that wave where the lines of communication have to be improved from the outside-in.

"How do you get leaders?" asked Schmidt.

"You've got to give people responsibility and put them in a position where that leadership is demanded of them."

It is one of the tasks of a coach to look back at what went wrong to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"We were incredibly frustrated and disappointed with those first 15-20 minutes against Wales," he reviewed.

"If you take those out, we dominate the game, we get a good margin, they're under more pressure because they're not defending a lead.

"It is a whole different ball game.

"But that's our fault because we didn't start well because we allowed them to initiate that."

It wasn't all a video nasty. There were elements of the game that provided great nourishment.

"If you put it alongside some of the performances we've had, there were parts of that game where we played some of our best rugby in The Championship and parts where we played some of our worst."

Schmidt will find out tomorrow how Ireland respond to an experience they have not had to handle for a while.

"After going for over a year, you probably forget how much it hurts to lose."

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