Joe Schmidt urges Ireland to rise above Rugby World Cup chaos with Samoa waiting
For Joe Schmidt and his team, it is business as usual in Fukuoka amidst the chaos elsewhere in Japan. The Ireland head coach and his players have a job to do to keep control of their World Cup destiny and they are determined to finish it against Samoa tomorrow.
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Questions about Super Typhoon Hagibis dominated the agenda at the coach's team announcement yesterday and, while he couldn't help but engage in the aspects of the storm that will affect this team, the New Zealander battled to remain match-focused.
After he was finished, he assembled the players designated for media duties and gave them an impassioned pep-talk. Whatever he said, none of them seemed keen to speak about the typhoon and the disruption it has caused.
Despite match cancellations elsewhere and the prospect that Japan v Scotland will be declared a draw, the Ireland coach wants his players to achieve the result that takes all other factors out of the equation.
A bonus point win ensures they make the last eight, regardless of whether Sunday's Yokohama fixture takes place.
If that game is cancelled, then second in the pool is the best Ireland can hope to achieve, meaning they will face the All Blacks in a knock-out game for the first time tomorrow-week.
That's the goal.
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"For us, the next 48 hours build-up is our full focus," the coach said.
"We can't really afford to be distracted by any other matches that may or may not be played.
"We've just got to make sure we get our preparation right and then the performance on the back of that preparation is as good as we can make it to make sure that whatever destiny we do manage to attain it is including another game and we get to stay on for another week whether it's to play the All Blacks or whether it's to play South Africa."
Whoever they play, the opposition will have a big advantage in having extra time to prepare.
Schmidt referred back to the criticism of his team's displays and the importance of the number of training sessions needed to produce a big performance.
"It probably didn't suit us that we had three games in 11 days," he said.
"I think one of the things that gives us confidence, just to answer that question, is a week where we get three trainings and we can get a bit of rhythm into a game because once you hit your rhythm I think that's when we are at our best.
"We trained once before we played Russia and made 11 changes. It's one of those things, those are the imperfections that occur in these sort of tournaments and, even within the draw, there are always different turnarounds.
"We would say that we've managed to get a good lead-in to this one and that will hopefully give us the confidence to go into Samoa and do a good job.
"Depending on what we can manage to do this weekend if we do qualify, we'll get maybe two or three trainings in, depending on how soon we can get up to Tokyo if we qualify because those logistics become a little bit of an issue now as well, particularly if there is damage or trains aren't running or airports are affected. It has thrown things up in the air a little bit."
New Zealand, England and France, he said, now have an advantage ahead of the last eight.
"When you've had a long lead-in like we've had and we've had some games concertinaed together quite closely, I think it's always an advantage to get a longer lead-in. That would be my personal opinion," he said.
"I think it would be the opinion of any coach that you ask. I did read a little bit on Eddie Jones.
"He looked fairly disappointed that he was going to head off on a mini-camp and do some really good training on the Saturday and have a few beers.
"So while they're doing that, we'll be rolling our sleeves up trying to combat a Samoa side that has heaps of talent and will be inevitably physical because that's how they play the game and that's how the game tends to be played at the top level."
Schmidt yesterday recalled Robbie Henshaw to a strong starting XV, with Tadhg Beirne named on the blindside and Peter O'Mahony and Joey Carbery among the replacements for tomorrow's match.
The Samoans, who can call on star back Tim Nanai-Williams despite concerns over his fitness, are a dangerous proposition according to the Ireland head coach.
"I watched Wales and Fiji," he continued.
"Fiji had a very outside chance mathematically of qualifying but I think sometimes that's when teams can be at their most dangerous, particularly when teams who have the sort of talent that Fiji and Samoa do," he said.
"You could go through a whole list of ball-players that they have that make them a massive threat. So, for us, hopefully, primarily we can get the result and the secondary factor would be if we could come through unscathed that would be a really successful Saturday for us."
Ireland v Samoa in Fukuoka
How the teams will line-up
Ireland: J Larmour (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), J Kleyn, P O'Mahony (both Munster), L McGrath (Leinster), J Carbery, A Conway (both Munster).
Samoa: Tim Nanai-Williams, Ah See Tuala, Alapati Leiua, Henry Taefu, Ed Fidow, Ulupano Seuteni, Dwayne Polataivao; Logovii Mulipola, Seilala Lam, Michael Alaalatoa, Teofilo Paulo, Kane Le'aupepe, Chris Vui, TJ Ioane, Jack Lam (capt).
Replacements: Ray Niuia, Paul Alo-Emile, Jordan Lay, Piula Faasalele, Josh Tyrell, Pele Cowley, Tusi Pisi, Kieron Fonotia.