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Schmidt seeks better showing against France

By Jonathan Bradley

France await and Joe Schmidt knows that the performance his team gave against Italy at the Olympic Stadium won't do against a team who, as he lyrically put it himself, "hold your heart on a string and put your bodies on the line".

The New Zealander last night said that he could sense something amiss among his squad as the bus wound its way towards the Olympic Stadium.

After boisterous wins over Romania and Canada, the players were eerily quiet as they made their way across London and he believes the nervous tension fed into their performance.

"Normally there is a bit of chat on the bus on the way to the ground," he said.

"But there wasn't a whisper today. I do really think it was bit of a tense performance.

"I don't think that we managed the end-game particularly well and we got quite speculative in what we were doing towards the end."

Schmidt didn't get where he is today by chance, but he conceded his side had their fair share of luck in edging out the Azzurri who threw everything at Ireland to keep their World Cup alive.

Now, he's counting on his players learning from their poor play in time because you can't rely on luck against a team like France who have their flaws, but can also hurt Ireland.

"Sometimes you get that reality check but it's then how you react beyond it," he said.

Both Ireland and France have qualified for the quarter-finals, but their meeting at the Millennium Stadium will be anything but a dead rubber.

The winner avoids New Zealand in the last eight and, while a good and in-form Argentina await them, it is the preferable draw.

"France have got a 10-day lead-in to the game and I think you can build a decent edge in 10 days," Schmidt lamented.

"We've got three-and-a-half hours' travelling tomorrow. We'll have a couple of days to recover, probably train Wednesday, Friday and try to hone in on what we need to do in those two short windows and try to keep a degree of freshness going into next weekend."

Ultimately, Schmidt's overriding emotion was relief.

He reckons he'll have a 31-man squad available to choose from after coming through yesterday's win without picking up any new injuries.

Before the game, he'd said he'd take a two-point win. The review won't please him, but considering England are already out of the tournament, things could be worse.

"The lads have achieved something and I'm delighted for them because there was a lot of talk about us having a pool that allowed us a little bit easier access to the play-off stages and that, in itself, exerts a little bit of pressure because then there's an expectation and to meet that expectation is always going to be a little bit of a distraction and a challenge," he said.

"Do I look delighted? I really am happy that we've got there. I'm very relieved to be honest."

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