Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Schmidt always has players in mind

Ireland run a set of flawless planned moves, without even leaving the team room.

Joe Schmidt's focused charges then hit the training field, ready to do it all over again: but this time in body, not just mind.

Visualisation has long been a common tool in top-level sport, but Ireland head coach Schmidt takes that, like most other tricks of the trade, to new levels.

Schmidt challenges his squad to run through moves mentally, either individually or in groups, then produce them for real.

Ireland's top stars can practise as long as they like in their heads: but when they reach the training pitch, often Schmidt gives them just one chance at perfection.

No coach has ever fathomed how to replicate the pressure and intensity of a Test match in training.

Schmidt has not found the solution, but flanker Tommy O'Donnell believes his latest ploy is a step in the right direction.

"He makes you study," Munster flanker O'Donnell said of Schmidt's famed intense scrutiny.

"The pressure he puts on you in the week, he is constantly checking that you're working, that you're going through your mind gyms I suppose.

"If you're not running a play on the field you're going through it in your head.

"Sometimes you'll be expected to go through a play, and know where you're supposed to be.

"Other times he'll tell you where you're supposed to be.

"You've got to chat it all through with the other players too.

"Sometimes you might not be able to run it but you'll have to get to that position where it works.

"You might only run it once in training, so you've got to get it right, and you've got to know it for the game.

"I've learned a lot from him in that respect, that you have to be 100 per cent prepared, you've got to be ready for everything, every single situation.

"You might come on at six, seven or eight in the back-row, so you need to know every situation you could find yourself in."

Rugby addict Schmidt seems unable to switch off from planning, plotting and scheming new methods and technical advantages.

The former New Zealand schoolteacher embraces that obsession though, harnessing his meticulous nature to impressive effect.

Gone are the days of replacements simply warming the bench, or trotting off for a gentle jog.

Ex-Leinster boss Schmidt demands his Ireland substitutes analyse the match as it unfolds.

Debutant Martin Moore revealed after Sunday's opening RBS 6 Nations encounter against Scotland that he stepped into his first cap buoyed by a number of plans devised through the course of the contest.

Coaches always talk about top players reacting and adapting to what it is front of them: Schmidt demands the same of himself.

"He talks about us not being spectators but really looking on," said 22-year-old Moore, who impressed in his first cap in Ireland's 28-6 victory over Scotland. "It's so we can improve and show what we can do when we come on.

"We have the live feed of the game and we're expected to watch that as the game goes on."

Even in a sport dominated by the desperate search for the tiniest edge, Schmidt is a veritable detail devil.

If Ireland's youngsters are impressed by the new boss mining the minutiae, the experienced campaigners are just as stunned.

Paul O'Connell admits Schmidt has been able to teach the dogged 34-year-old some new analytical tricks.

"When we came into camp before the Six Nations, you just couldn't find a free computer in the team room," said the evergreen Ireland captain.

"Joe demands such high standards of us that no one wants to fall short.

"Everyone knows he will expect certain analysis work to have been covered, no questions asked.

"So that's what everyone has been doing, and I think we're starting to see those little edges come through already."


From Belfast Telegraph