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Criticism won't distract Schmidt, insists Lynagh

By Nick Purewal

Published 12/09/2015

Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt will not let two straight Test defeats weaken his resolve over Ireland's regimented World Cup gameplan, according to Michael Lynagh.

Warren Gatland criticised Ireland's narrow approach in Wales' 16-10 victory in Dublin last month, but World Cup winner Lynagh believes head coach Schmidt will remain unmoved by outside barbs.

Lynagh spearheaded Australia's 1991 World Cup final victory over England, who were tricked into abandoning their punishing 10-man game amid David Campese's taunts, as the Wallabies triumphed 12-6.

The former fly-half believes Ireland will not fall prey to similar goading, despite warm-up losses to Wales and England.

"I can't see Joe Schmidt reacting to anything like that," Lynagh said. "In that World Cup final a lot of the English players had talked about us giving them a bit of a hiding earlier in the year.

"They felt they had tried to out-muscle us then and couldn't do that, so then they tried to do something a bit different in the final.

"So they chanced their arm a little bit but we just managed to squeeze across the line.

"It wasn't a resounding failure from England back then in the end, they went very close.

"Joe Schmidt's smart enough to know what he wants to do, what the players need. He knows his players better than Warren Gatland does.

"Warren's very smart and knows how to sow the odd seed of doubt. But I can't see Schmidt (pictured) changing things at a stage like this."

Ireland will open their Pool D campaign by taking on Canada in Cardiff next Saturday, with hopes high of a best-ever World Cup return.

Back-to-back RBS Six Nations titles carried Ireland to an all-time world ranking of second, though those two warm-up defeats have edged Schmidt's men back down to sixth.

Exacting Kiwi coach Schmidt has built Ireland into a team greater than the sum of their parts through territorial and breakdown dominance.

Now captain Paul O'Connell and his charges are seeking to reach their first-ever World Cup semi-final, with their France clash likely to decide who tops Pool D.

Lynagh hailed Ireland lynchpin Jonny Sexton for steering Ireland's Six Nations success, but admitted Leinster's returning pivot must now return to his high standards after a recent dip in form.

"I think Sexton's done a great job for Ireland in the last two years," said Lynagh.

"He hasn't been at his usual standards in the last two games, but I'm sure he'll pull that back up for the tournament.

"But he's got to play well for Ireland for them to fire, for them to have the best chance.

"It's how they use experienced men like Sexton and O'Connell, having lost the last two they've got to build it back up again.

"They're leading now with two of the easiest games in the pool, so it does give them a bit of game-time to build that back up.

"But Sexton's crucial to everything they do."

Belfast Telegraph

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