Ireland and Joe Schmidt ran out of ideas at the World Cup, says Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll believes a combination of a failure to evolve tactically and a loss of confidence cost Joe Schmidt's Ireland dear in 2019.
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Speaking in Tokyo, the former captain defended the coach's overall record in Irish rugby but conceded that he and the team had been unable to stay ahead of the game after beating New Zealand in November 2018.
They started the calendar year with a hammering at home to England and never really recovered, suffering crushing defeats to Wales, England again, Japan and then the All Blacks in a 46-14 World Cup quarter-final defeat.
"He has absolutely maximised the potential of that team over the course of the six years with them," O'Driscoll said of Schmidt.
"But yet, in the final year, he failed to evolve the team when he needed to and, when we got close to the top of the tree by playing our game plan, teams started giving a little bit more respect, a little bit more time to how they could nullify us.
"On top of that, they weren't doing that game plan as well, so it was a double-negative.
"Then, we had this massive confidence dip across the entire squad after getting owned by England in the first game, physically dominated. I don't know if our year ever really recovered from that, to be honest.
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"It completely took the wind out of our sails, after riding that crest of a wave from the New Zealand game and then, bang, we didn't have a couple of games to enjoy it."
O’Driscoll added: “The lack of evolution probably hurt us, it hurt him a bit because it felt as if we ran out of ideas.”
Schmidt has exited the stage, making way for his defence coach Andy Farrell under whom O’Driscoll worked on the 2013 Lions tour.
And he believes Farrell cannot put all of his eggs in the World Cup 2023 basket.
“Is he on the back foot? Probably a little bit because the players didn’t deliver in the World Cup as he would have liked as one of the coaches,” he said. “I think he’ll be given a little bit of leeway, but the problem is you can’t write off the first two years in development of a four-year cycle.
“You’ve got to win the here and now, but that might look different to what we’ve seen with Joe, that success, but he won’t have a job in four years if he doesn’t get the immediate part right.”
Meanwhile, England fans will struggle to secure direct flights to Japan for Saturday’s World Cup final against South Africa, according to travel experts.
Supporters clamouring for match tickets for the showpiece in Yokohama already face paying extortionate prices.
The cheapest ticket available on online ticketing agency Stubhub yesterday was priced at £1,386 — with some seats costing almost £13,000.
And demand for flights from the UK to Tokyo, 20 miles from the Yokohama Stadium, has soared since Eddie Jones’ side beat New Zealand in the semis.