Wary Schmidt issues a World Cup warning to his hopefuls
Joe Schmidt has warned that a drop in performance in the Six Nations could have ramifications for Ireland at the World Cup.
The departing head coach is targeting a top-two finish in this year's tournament and wants his champions to attack their attempt to win two in a row rather than defend their title.
He goes into his final Championship having won three in five and his team are odds-on favourites to retain the trophy after claiming the Grand Slam last season and having a great 2018, including beating New Zealand.
Although the World Cup is the primary goal, Schmidt warned against getting too caught up in long-term thinking at the expense of short-term results.
"You play England in 10 days, you don't think too much about a World Cup because I think the danger is you can damage a World Cup - your confidence, your expectation, your momentum - just because you look too far ahead and don't give due respect to what is one of the biggest teams in world rugby," he said, before being asked if a successful Six Nations is the best preparation for the World Cup.
"Yeah, and I think it is not simplistic and it is a bit more holistic for us. A good Six Nations is how did we go training, who impressed us training, who worked their way through and forced their way into a match day squad who hadn't played for us before, all those elements, I think they are really important.
"So is the on-field 40 minutes followed by the other 40 but there is the regular real stress opportunity that comes with being in camp for seven weeks."
Asked what a successful Six Nations looks like, Schmidt said a place in the top two would suffice.
"One that we can integrate these new guys," he said. "One that we can play at the top of our game.
"I know people always want something concrete, something objective or result-based, and if we can get in the top two you know you are in the mix."