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Chris Henry: It wasn't like 2018, but Ireland's Rugby World Cup win over Scotland was trademark Schmidt

Pulling strings: Conor Murray was at centre of everything Ireland did
Pulling strings: Conor Murray was at centre of everything Ireland did
Chris Henry

By Chris Henry

We have spent most of this year wondering, debating and worrying whether it was going to be the Ireland of 2018 that showed up to the World Cup party in Japan.

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They didn't. But Ireland dominated anyway. Watching the game on Sunday, what really struck me was how this was a script not from the Grand Slam-winning season, but from 2014-15.

When I think back to the success of the sides I played in during Joe Schmidt's early time as coach of the national side, the plan was built around the bedrock of a dominant pack and the ever-accurate boot of Conor Murray.

The unforgettable 2018 was different again, but those previous successes imprinted on the mind of many, to the point that it's that type of game that is still seen as an archetypal 'Joe Schmidt performance'.

When people talk of an Ireland trademark, what we saw on Sunday is what they mean.

It was smart. They starved Scotland of the ball and we really haven't seen them exert such control over a game from start to finish in a few years.

That comes from Murray, which in turn takes the pressure off Johnny Sexton. Many of Conor's kicks weren't even contestable, they were that bit longer, but I think that was part of negating the counter-attacking risk. There was so much talk of Scotland's attacking threats but Ireland gave them so few chances.

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There weren't many risks, it was structured, there were a lot of one-out runners and they kept the ball better than in recent games, but they found a weakness and went for it.

In this instance that meant up front and the maul, something it felt we'd gone away from in recent seasons.

It helped that the lineout had a much better day and I think that'll be a huge boost for everybody's confidence moving forward.

The thing I loved about the lineout was that there were three different dummy movements and yet it was Peter O'Mahony coming into the middle to take the ball.

If you look at when there were struggles, a lot of it was trying to get in behind pods and things like that.

Against Scotland, they just used speed jumpers and power lifters.

With Rory Best's throws lower and faster with someone coming onto it, it makes things easier, and so many balls were won coming forward. Jonny Gray and Ryan Wilson, I thought they'd do more damage but they didn't really do any there at all.

Or anywhere else really. If you're a Scotland fan, you have to be bitterly disappointed.

Ireland starved them of ball to the degree that when they had it, they felt they had to do something special and it didn't work for them.

It'll be tough for Gregor Townsend's men to make an impact on this World Cup now, but for Ireland things are just beginning.

Ireland will need to Boks clever in expected quarter-final tie

It was no surprise to see the word heavyweight thrown around when it came to the All Blacks' meeting with South Africa on Saturday morning.

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Joe Schmidt

You couldn't ask for a better fixture to whet the appetite for a tournament, and I think if that had have been the game in Yokohama six weeks from now with the Webb Ellis on the line, you would have been happy with the entertainment offered up.

It was an unbelievable game and a real treat so early.

Obviously everyone here was watching it with some green-tinted spectacles and looking for areas of hope that Ireland could beat one or the other in a potential quarter-final that now seems sure to be against the Springboks.

Already that seems like a really interesting tactical battle. The worry is obviously that there's just no way Ireland can do to the Boks what they did to Scotland, their forwards won't allow it and we've seen the Irish falter against more physically dominating sides in the recent past. When Ireland lose collisions, lose the power battle, it's very tough for them.

That was never going to be the case against Scotland but it'll be a different matter altogether in a quarter-final. I'm sure in the first half-hour of that game, there would have been plenty of fans staring into their coffee and porridge and wondering just what lay ahead for Joe Schmidt's men.

If South Africa play the way they did for that first half an hour, can Ireland beat them even playing like they did on Sunday? I wouldn't be sure.

That they couldn't sustain it for longer offers one reason to be optimistic, that Schmidt now has the better part of a month to prepare for that game gives another.

Ireland remain one of the smartest and really well-coached sides in world rugby, but I do think they'll need to come up with something new to make the last four.

Locals are going green and set for big atmosphere

It doesn't seem to matter where we go, host nations love the Irish bandwagon.

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Japanese fan

It seemed like every time the cameras panned into the crowd at Yokohama Stadium on Sunday morning that every pocket of Irish fans cheering the team on contained Japanese locals in their green jerseys.

Having watched the hosts on Friday night and the atmosphere there, it feels like it's set up for a pretty electric occasion on Saturday when the two sides meet.

That's great for Ireland because there's no doubt about it, having the hosts in your group can give you a lift as well. It's exciting.

With a short turnaround, a few injuries and the emotional drain, even in victory, of playing such a big game first up in the World Cup, I think that atmosphere and buzz can really help ensure there's no lull.

With Japan, you wonder if they're going to really go for that Scotland game and focus on that and beating Samoa, or giving it a real crack this weekend.

After what we've seen, the latter probably makes sense, but in front of their home fans in a great atmosphere, they might just look to take it to Joe Schmidt's side knowing that they're coming off a short turnaround.

They're going to produce something in one of these games.

They were disappointing but we know that they have some really good players too.

One thing is for sure, they'll view Ireland as another prized scalp to go along with South Africa four years ago.

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