Schmidt has shown Ireland the way to conquer All Blacks: Easterby
Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby has credited Joe Schmidt for giving the side the belief that they can match the very best as they prepare to take on the back-to-back world champion All Blacks in Saturday's quarter-final in Tokyo.
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Before Schmidt took the head job in 2013, the side had never once beaten New Zealand having been trying since 1905. After suffering last-gasp heartbreak in his first game against his homeland, Schmidt has guided the side to two wins in their last three over the opposition standing in their way of a first ever semi-final.
"As a team we were often gallant losers in my time as a player. We pushed teams close every now and then," reflected Easterby. "We had the odd maybe two or three or four-game winning streak against the top sides and then maybe we'd fall over.
"But I think the consistency and confidence that Joe has brought over the last five or six seasons, not just to beat the likes of the All Blacks but to go to South Africa, to go to Australia and win a series, to win Championships, to win a Grand Slam, the confidence that the group has with the game plan, there is a combination of different things that have come together.
"A lot of them all have to come together at the same time, and sometimes when you don't quite get everything right we've fallen short. I think we've seen that as well. So we have to be at our best or close to our best on Saturday and if we are then we'll push them all the way."
While defeat would mean a last game in the Irish hotseat for Schmidt, and captain Rory Best, Easterby doesn't believe the side will require any extra motivation come kick-off.
"I don't think we'll be thinking about that," he added. "This group has been challenged in lots of different ways in the last few months. They've been challenged by you guys in the media and more importantly they've been challenged by themselves to keep pushing and improving.
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"I don't think they'll need any extra motivation. It doesn't get any bigger at this stage for us than a World Cup quarter-final against the All Blacks."