Six Nations France v Ireland: Tommy Bowe hails Joe Schmidt as Irish gear up for Paris
Ireland's Grand Slam winning hero Tommy Bowe has hailed Joe Schmidt as the best coach in the world and backed the Kiwi to deliver more success for the team.
The former Leinster boss has been a huge success during his time in Ireland, winning both domestic and European honours with the province before claiming back-to-back Six Nations titles, but the failure to go beyond the last eight at the World Cup created doubts over the state of the Irish game that lingered into this year’s championship.
Bowe last night hit out at the pessimism surrounding the campaign that kicked off with a 16-16 draw against Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
“There was a huge amount of negativity going into the game, certainly from the media,” said Bowe who hopes to return for Ulster from a knee injury before the end of the season.
“We’re missing quite a few players through injury, and we’ve lost Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell in the last few years, two huge leaders for the Irish side but we had the chance to be the first team ever to win it three times (in a row, outright).
“We’ve got, in my mind, the best coach in the world in Joe Schmidt leading the team and anything is possible with this Irish team with him as coach.”
Bowe admitted that Schmidt and the Irish players would have been ‘disappointed’ not to have beaten Wales after being 13-0 up, but firmly believes they can put that right against France in Paris on Saturday.
With just six days between the Welsh and French games Schmidt will be weighing up his options when his squad return to training today.
He has already acknowledged that there will be changes to his starting side and he hopes to have Sean O'Brien and Rob Kearney, who both missed out against Wales, back in the mix for selection.
"There will probably be one or two changes, maybe even three or four mainly because it's a bit of a tough battle," said Schmidt.
"I don't know what the ball-in-play time was (against Wales) but it seemed to me that there was some very long phases of play and a lot of those phases, they spent about 20% of their possession in our 22 so that's just a little bit more attritional.
"So for us, we'll train Tuesday without contact and then on Thursday we'll train and probably do a little bit of light contact and then we fly out that afternoon to Paris."
Despite exiting with a knock on Sunday, Schmidt still expects to have Johnny Sexton in the ten jersey but, given the turnaround, Keith Earls looks sure to miss out after suffering concussion.
There will be a decision to be made at prop, with both Cian Healy and Mike Ross ready to return.
France have been dealt an injury blow of their own with the news that back-row stalwart Louis Picamoles will miss the rest of the championship. The Toulouse number 8 injured a hamstring during his side's win over Italy at the Stade de France.