Sunday 16 December 2018

'We have to trust Joe to sort the issues'

O'Sullivan and Horgan in spat over Schmidt

Ireland’s Iain Henderson takes possession in a lineout during the Six Nations match against Wales in Cardiff. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ireland’s Iain Henderson takes possession in a lineout during the Six Nations match against Wales in Cardiff. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

What a difference a week can make?

Ireland are out. Wales are back. England are suddenly unbeatable.

And the man positioned as Joe Schmidt's enemy Shane Horgan has backed the coach.

Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan grabbed the headlines by laying into Schmidt for how Ireland have faltered since a stellar November.

"In the last two tournaments, we have been shut down with the ball in hand," said O'Sullivan about the failure at The Principality Stadium.

"We haven't been able to batter our way through teams and we've persisted with it.

"Teams have our number, it seems, when we have the ball in our hands.

"If they defend with any sense and intensity, they can lock us down.

"The job of the coach is to find a way to break that down.

"Whatever we constructed ourselves it didn't work. We didn't get there.

"That comes back to what was the plan to get it done."


Overall, Ireland edged the possession 53%-47%, the number of carries 167-145, defenders beaten 21-17 and metres made 398-387 the turnovers won 5-4, missing less tackles 17-21 and being positively miserly in their penalty count 4-against-10.

The area of greatest disappointment was the lineout where Ireland lost three of 13 against Wales' 100% recovery of their 11.

Not for the first time, Ireland have edged almost all the statistics, except the one that matters most.

How did this happen? Chances created were not taken.

This is where Schmidt's 'doubting Shane' of last week jumped to the defence of his former coach.

Horgan criticised the decision of Schmidt to parachute Tommy Bowe into the 23 for Scotland as "a nostalgia call."

What could have blown-up into a row was defused by Schmidt's assertion that selection is based on a number of criteria, including whathappens in Carton House out of the public eye.

Horgan subtley moved the finger of accusation from Schmidt to the players for it is they who must implement the game plan.

"Is Joe's game plan that he is presenting to the players and the players are trying to implement fundamentally wrong?

"I believe it's not. I believe it's the correct game plan," said Horgan.

"That game against Wales, they tried to play more rugby than I have seen them do a lot of times.

"It was maybe to their detriment because they played a lot of rugby in their own 22 or 22-to-40 (metre lines) where you think you're going to have more space to attack."

Horgan believes the solutions to Ireland's problems of matching the accuracy and the precision triggered by England against Scotland are there.

"Technical fixes are the key," he said.

"The lineout has been excellent for us for long periods, especially the rolling maul off the lineout.

"We are known for that. That didn't work. That was broken. That was an issue. We didn't deal with it.

"The other one was our forward game, our power runners were chopped down very early. "That caused us big distress.

"When that happens. When a couple of key elements of our game break down, the rest of our game becomes very difficult.

"It is very hard to move the ball wide if you get no forward momentum off your initial carry. Was the game plan perfect in every way? I don't think so.

"But Joe Schmidt has a fundamental understanding of how best to get Ireland set-up to win games."

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