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Irish have raised expectation to daunting levels, says Joe Schmidt

By Nick Purewal

Joe Schmidt has admitted Ireland's maiden victory over New Zealand weighs heavily with "daunting" expectation.

Ireland's Kiwi boss stamped his name into his adopted nation's folklore on Saturday, as his side beat the back-to-back World champions 40-29 at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Schmidt claimed Ireland capitalised on a "vulnerable" New Zealand beset by injuries in the United States - and insisted the All Blacks will arrive for the November 19 rematch in Dublin an entirely different proposition.

The peerless Brodie Retallick will be fit to solve New Zealand's lock crisis at the Aviva Stadium clash, with Schmidt admitting Ireland targeted the All Blacks' shifting flanker Jerome Kaino in the second row on Saturday.

"It's kind of daunting," said Schmidt of an anticipated hike in expectation after Ireland's maiden win over New Zealand after 111 years of trying.

"All we can guarantee is that we'll keep working really hard and the players are receptive to working really hard, and we'll keep trying to grow the group.

"The reality is that we did get them when they were a little bit vulnerable. I remember after the World Cup and people said, 'why is there such a big gap between north and south?' But there's no chasm there.

"It only takes a little bit of fluctuation for someone to be off their game and another team to knock them over.

"That's why I said that the All Blacks were a little bit under-staffed, and you wouldn't say we were at full strength necessarily, but we were at full fitness and that was what we planned.

"I know some of the decisions were queried but we had in our minds exactly what we needed, or felt we needed, to do.

"Now, you don't always get that right and things don't always work out, so it's daunting from that perspective because those margins are very fine."

New Zealand also missed ankle injury victim Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano, who had returned home after a family bereavement, in the second row.

While Schmidt admitted being "blown away" by the victory, he still urged for a sense of calm.

"I think what it does demonstrate is that any team is susceptible if there are injuries," said Schmidt.

"Take out those three second rows, and you get a few injuries during the game as well, and you can be vulnerable.

"I would sympathise with the All Blacks a little bit because that wasn't the All Blacks team we've seen through the Rugby Championship and I'd have no doubt Retallick will be fit to contest the match in Dublin - and he'll change a fair bit of what they can deliver at lineout time."

Bullocking centre Robbie Henshaw scythed home for the fifth try, cutting home after a fine switch with No.8 Jamie Heaslip. Schmidt revealed Ireland had been desperate to run that play to capitalise on the 23-year-old's line-breaking talents.

Schmidt added: "They'd been practising that play for about, well, we were going to do it in the first Test in South Africa but didn't get a scrum in the right place."

Belfast Telegraph


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