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Rugby World Cup: Thought of letting down Irish fans drives Joe Schmidt to succeed

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 21/09/2015

Fan power: Ireland captain Paul O’Connell leads his team off the field as they pay tribute to fans in Cardiff
Fan power: Ireland captain Paul O’Connell leads his team off the field as they pay tribute to fans in Cardiff

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has called on his players to ensure they deliver for their travelling fans as the World Cup moves into a second week.

His side began the competition strongly on Saturday with a seven-try 50-7 bonus-point win over Canada but, with over 68,000 in attendance, the Kiwi admitted that he already feels the weight of expectation firmly on his shoulders.

"It's fantastic for the team, they love it but it scares me," he admitted after the Millennium Stadium win. "It's fantastic but I just don't want to let down these fans.

"We're working hard and we want to make sure they get rewarded for their support.

"I always feel a massive weight of responsibility to try and encourage the lads to be as good as they can be because that support is phenomenal and they probably grow an extra inch because of it and hopefully that can be the case over the next three or four weeks."

Ulstermen Iain Henderson and Jared Payne crossed for tries in their first World Cup game while Sean O'Brien, Sean Cronin, Jonny Sexton and the Kearney brothers, Rob and Dave, also went over the whitewash.

Having been criticised in some quarters for what was described as a limited gameplan, notably by Wales coach Warren Gatland, Schmidt was pleased to see the variety to his side's attacking play instigated by man of the match Sexton.

"What we did was play really well three-dimensionally," he said. "I thought there was great width, but I also thought there was great depth to our attack and I think Jonny found some really good space in behind that allowed us to get some good territory.

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"At the same time, if they were looking to protect the territory, we took it at them on the edges.

"We have a number of guys who have got really good experience now, who can read a game and get a fair bit of licence to do exactly that.

"So, what we try to do is give them the tools to put that together and one of the things about having the tools is guys understanding their role but also being individually capable of making the links that need to be put together. I thought our passing game was pretty good.

"Jonny will probably be disappointed with the first wide pass that he made, but he also made some cracking passes in the game as well."

Having seen off Canada, the former Leinster coach turns his attention to Romania on Sunday and will spend this week weighing up a selection that must maintain continuity while also giving as much of his squad as possible a taste of the tournament.

"It's a bit of a catch 22," he added.

"We want to build cohesion, we want to keep guys in a match rhythm as well.

"Guys are used to, in big competitions, going week to week. At the same time, if we do get to a fourth or a fifth week and are in the mix, we want guys to be both fresh and have a rhythm.

"It's a little bit horses for courses, some guys play really well fresh and others need a bit more rhythm in their games and we try to mix and match as best we can.

"Ideally, you would (like to use the full 31-man squad). You've selected them because you trust that they've got the ability to contribute.

"We'd like to see everyone contribute, but at the same time it is trying to combine that continuity and that cohesion that was demonstrated at times and trying to maintain that into next week and, particularly, the week after and the week after that."

Belfast Telegraph

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