Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Six Nations

Ireland coach Schmidt fired up for all new England test

By Cian Tracey

Joe Schmidt has so far resisted the temptation to rise to the bait left dangling by the shrewd Eddie Jones, with the Kiwi instead remaining focused on his attempts to plot Ireland's first win in four games.

Jones' suggestion that Ireland will look to play an Aussie Rules-type game at Twickenham on Saturday was shrugged off by Schmidt, who knows that he is facing an English side that have tactically moved on since the previous tenure.

England under Stuart Lancaster had become far too predictable, and although they retained a strong set-piece, Schmidt has already noticed subtle changes in Jones' first two games in charge.

Ireland are without a win in their last three games and with the structure of their attack coming under increasing pressure, playing against a side who have not yet conceded a try in this year's Six Nations is likely to further highlight any flaws.

The World Cup may have been an unmitigated disaster for last year's hosts but as they return to the scene of the crime, Schmidt is anticipating a backlash.

"There's definitely different things that they're doing in the last two games, which is a little bit frustrating because we knew the shapes and the way that they played," Schmidt admitted.

"Sometimes you couldn't stop that anyway because they played very well; they tended to play a couple of diamond shapes and had a lot of variety.

"But at the same time you knew the options, so as long as you were astute you could try to defend them.

"They are very dangerous in their back three or four, it doesn't really matter what shapes they play.

"It's an exciting challenge, particularly on the back of us having a little bit of disappointment, particularly against France.

"I think we've played in patches but we've got nothing to show for it. We need to desperately try and get something on the scoreboard."

Schmidt will have watched Cian Healy come through 67 minutes for Leinster on Saturday, while Mike Ross came off the bench and played 36 minutes in Cardiff.

Both props trained with Ireland last week before returning to their province in a bid to get more game-time following respective knee and hamstring injuries.

"We were thinking of bringing them in for the France game but it would have been very difficult to put them in there," Schmidt explained. "Also the lads that had been in there have been working very hard. We're incredibly disappointed in how the scrum was managed (by the officials) in the French game.

"We can't change that now and we've got to forge ahead."

Ross is likely to start on Saturday alongside Jack McGrath and Rory Best. Schmidt may have been reluctant to entertain Jones' mind games but he did typically plant a seed of doubt in referee Romain Poite's head.

"We've had a good look at them and if you look at the 61st minute of England-Scotland, you can see a little bit of what's happening (in the scrum)," the Ireland coach maintained.

"Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola on the loosehead, they'd know our lads really well.

"Dylan Hartley, again, a strong scrummager, part of that Northampton team that was so dominant. So across their front-row we know that they're going to be tough."

Knowing what to expect is one thing but dealing with it is another. Jones will continue to dampen expectations but he has yet to experience the pressure cooker that is Twickenham and that is something that Schmidt will be looking to exploit.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph