Ireland coach Joe Schmidt makes stunning spy claim ahead of Six Nations
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made an explosive claim prior to Saturday's Six Nations kick-off by stating that previous squad training sessions have been spied on.
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The Six Nations and Grand Slam champions begin the defence of their titles against England in Dublin and the normally non-controversial Schmidt's revelation will now ratchet up the tension on match week.
The Kiwi said that though he knew that spying operations had happened, he would not be revealing who had been snooping on Ireland training.
When asked how frequently the spying had taken place, and indeed how the Ireland coach had come upon the information, Schmidt said that he had "stumbled upon it" but he refused to divulge any further detail.
"I know it happens. I know it's happened to us," Schmidt said while also stating that he was disappointed when he became aware that Ireland were being watched.
"It's happened a couple of times," he said. "I think when it filters back you are disappointed but you kind of acknowledge, 'OK, it's their process. It's their way of collecting information'.
"You just shrug your shoulders.
"But I don't think you can get distracted by it. And if you became paranoid about it you'd never train properly.
"You'd always be worried by somebody looking.
"We always say, 'If they spy on us but we do it well enough, maybe, we'll still be able to get a result'," Schmidt added.
"I would have to say that I'm not a believer in it," the Kiwi also said.
"I don't think that it's necessary. I would still like to think there is a sense of fair play.
"I love some of the amateur values that still exist in rugby."
Ireland are one of a number of sides who have stopped taking part in the traditional captain's runs at opposition stadiums on the day before Test matches.
The squad spent last week in Portugal's Algarve for warm-weather training which prompted England coach Eddie Jones to joke that he was going to buy a pair of binoculars as his players were also preparing nearby. Jones recently admitted that he used to have rival teams' training spied on, but insisted he had long since given up the practice.
"Fifteen years ago, we used to send people out to watch training, it used to be part of the pre-match brief," said Jones.
"I can remember sending a coach dressed like a swagman to watch one team train and he got chased. You don't need to do it now, you see everything in a game. I have been coaching for 20 years and it has always been going on but I can say with a hand on my heart, we don't do it any more."