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Chris Henry: Joe Schmidt is right to remain positive about Ireland's 2019 hopes

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt

By Chris Henry

I was fortunate enough to be in the room on Thursday night when Joe Schmidt paid a visit to Malone for a club dinner.

My old Ireland coach was humorous and insightful but he was honest and forthright too. He admitted that Ireland have been sluggish so far in this Six Nations but he still seems positive about this group of players - as he said himself, as well he might given that they're still the winners of 20 of their last 22 games.

He seems to be of the opinion that a good win against France on Sunday could really set the ball rolling and he's right.

For all the doom and gloom, if they do that then they're going to Wales not only with a view to stopping another Slam like they did to England in 2017, but with a shot at retaining their Championship.

The way the fixtures have fallen, there's no denying that you'd rather have had France earlier and England later, but when I look at Les Bleus I just wonder if that game against Scotland was almost them getting their win of the tournament.

In Dublin as well, all these years later and it's still the old cliché of not knowing how they're going to pitch up when on their travels.

For Ireland, the break will have done wonders too. I had written last week about needing to get out of their own heads a little bit so it was no surprise to see them out and about during the week in Belfast, even getting the chance to go out for a few drinks.

There'll have been a good buzz about the group and being away somewhere else just gives you that opportunity to chill out a bit more... or as much as you can during a Six Nations.

There'll be reinforcements too, of course.

We all expect Rory Best to come back in as skipper while, with CJ Stander, James Ryan, Cian Healy and Garry Ringrose all available too, I'm sure we'll see changes from the Italy game.

I'd be surprised if we don't see a home victory.

Belfast Telegraph

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