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Schmidt is eager to change the record in Cardiff

 

Clear aim: Joe Schmidt has never won a Six Nations game away to Wales
Clear aim: Joe Schmidt has never won a Six Nations game away to Wales
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

With his Ireland exit now only around eight months away, there aren't too many boxes left for Joe Schmidt to tick in this part of the world.

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His final act, the World Cup in Japan, is certainly one after a disappointingly familiar quarter-final exit last time around but another mark that the great Kiwi is yet to hit is a Six Nations win in Cardiff.

It would be wrong to call the Principality Stadium Schmidt's bogey ground - he did after all win a Heineken Cup there with Leinster as well as a World Cup warm-up fixture in 2015 - but his Championship record in the Welsh capital reads played two, lost two ahead of his third and final attempt in Saturday's Six Nations conclusion (2.45pm kick-off).

Two years ago, a week before they derailed England's Grand Slam bid, Ireland endured a dispiriting Friday night in Cardiff while 2015 was the one that really stung, in the end representing their only defeat of that Championship.

That could all change this weekend. Thanks to Sunday's resounding return to form against France, an away win against a Wales side themselves seeking a Grand Slam would have Ireland as clubhouse leaders for an unlikely Championship triumph and put the onus on England to deny them the crown in their late kick-off against Scotland.

While it's hard to see Eddie Jones' men slipping up in that scenario, Schmidt admitted he'd like to complete his personal set of away victories.

"It would be nice to tick it off," he said. "But it's not so much the venue. I know that the home crowd get right behind the Welsh team there. I also know that we'll have lots of travelling support and that they'll be very vocal so we look forward to it.

"Last year we kind of had a performance that was very up and down against Wales."

Regardless of this weekend, Schmidt's legacy in this competition is undoubtedly already secured and the same can be said for his Welsh counterpart and Ireland predecessor Warren Gatland, who will also be leaving his post after the World Cup.

The Ireland boss, though, re-iterated that Saturday's game will be decided by the 46 players on show, not a pair of legendary coaches experiencing one final taste of this competition.

"You'd be amazed how little it has to do with what it means to me," he said. "It's in the players' hands, it's their domain.

"My job is just trying to ensure that they feel they were well prepared, that they feel that they understand how Wales are going to turn up and defend or attack and work with the other coaching staff to try to best manage the playing group between now and then because that's a tricky thing in itself in a slightly condensed week."

The six-day turnaround - which Ireland will next endure when taking on Scotland and then Japan in the World Cup - raises the possibility of changes beyond the replacing of the injured Josh van der Flier but it will be interesting to see how much Schmidt wants to rotate after the win over France contained what he felt was one of his side's most dominant halves of rugby.

Ireland led 19-0 at the turn with France spending only five seconds of the first 40 minutes in the opposition '22'.

"That was certainly the most dominant first 40, probably 50 minutes," he said.

"(But) I don't think 50 minutes will win in Cardiff. I think you've got to put 80 minutes together in Cardiff. We have to extend that high performance period right through the game."

How the Six Nations title can be won on Saturday

Wales, England and Ireland can all win the Six Nations title on Saturday, with Wales currently on 16 points, England 15 and Ireland 14. Here, we look at the title permutations.

  • Wales will win the Six Nations title and clinch a first Grand Slam for seven years if they beat Ireland in Cardiff.
  • If Wales and England finish tied on 20 points, which is quite possible, then Wales will still be crowned champions as Grand Slam winners are automatically awarded three bonus points under Six Nations rules.
  • A draw between Wales and Ireland - and England losing to Scotland at Twickenham - would see Wales win the title without a Grand Slam.
  • A draw between Wales and Ireland - and England beating Scotland - would see England crowned champions.
  • If Ireland beat Wales and England defeat Scotland, then England will be champions.
  • If Ireland beat Wales and England lose to Scotland, then Ireland will be champions.

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