■ Sch­midt to con­firm fu­ture by the end of this month

Coach says Mur­ray un­likely to be pitched in against All Blacks but player’s sharp­ness has given ‘food for thought’

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - – Gerry Thorn­ley

In con­trast to pre­vi­ously re­new­ing con­tracts as head coach with Ire­land, Joe Sch­midt has set a dead­line for the end of this month be­fore de­cid­ing whether to con­tinue in the job or move on after next year’s World Cup in Ja­pan.

Re­call­ing some pre­var­i­ca­tion pre­vi­ously, that in it­self could be in­ter­preted as an­other sign that he is of a mind to move on after com­plet­ing two World Cup cy­cles, pos­si­bly to re­turn home to New Zealand after al­most a dozen years coach­ing in France and Ire­land.

Then again there’s al­ways the dan­ger of read­ing too much be­tween the lines with Sch­midt, for as well as be­ing a handy coach he knows how to play the straight­est of straight bats. But it’s clear he’s close to hav­ing his mind made up this time. “Yes, by the end of Novem­ber I will [make a de­ci­sion]. I think it’s one of those things where you’ve just got to sit down and make a de­ci­sion. You can’t let it linger for two rea­sons re­ally.”

“One, if I’m stay­ing I want the clar­ity go­ing for­ward, and if I’m not stay­ing I want the clar­ity for the IRFU be­cause I think half the job is what gets done un­der your watch, the other half of the job is how you leave it so that some­body else can pick it up. And so I want nice clar­ity ei­ther way.”

Al­though this Novem­ber win­dow is played out to that back­drop or sub-plot, the man at the cen­tre of it has no prob­lems plac­ing it to one side.

“Yea, I do find it easy,” he said after his ar­rival in the US on Thurs­day evening lo­cal time to link up with the trav­el­ling squad hav­ing stayed back to work in Car­ton House with the ex­pe­ri­enced core who will form the back­bone of the side to face Ar­gentina and New Zealand over the next two Satur­days.

“I am re­ally good at com­part­men­tal­is­ing, and I got home for a night last night [Wed­nes­day] so it was great to catch up with the fam­ily and try to block out a few things, and when they headed off to bed I got a lit­tle bit done, and I got a few things done on the plane.

Pre­cious

“When these weeks come up they’re so pre­cious. You only get 12 or 13 of them in the year. They’re so pre­cious that you just max­imise what­ever you can put into them.”

Whereas that is easy, he said, less easy was his strug­gle with de­ci­sions to leave play­ers out of squads, some­thing he “wouldn’t miss” do­ing. He then added in­trigu­ingly: “But I’ve spo­ken to Kel­lie, even the kids, talk­ing to Tim last night, just try­ing to make a de­ci­sion that is the right one for all of us re­ally.”

Again at the risk of read­ing too much be­tween the lines, hav­ing shared more of the coach­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties this week, this seemed pos­si­bly like an­other hint that he may be mov­ing on.

The as­pect of the job he clearly rel­ishes the most is be­ing on the train­ing ground with the play­ers. That hasn’t changed. “Yea, look I can­not say that I’ve ever en­joyed work­ing more with a group and whether that’s the young guys that are here or whether it’s the guys that we just fin­ished with in Car­ton House.”

“There is a con­ta­gious en­thu­si­asm in the group. There is a will­ing­ness to re­ally stretch them­selves so that they try to per­form as best as they can, and there’s a co­he­sion there be­cause they do take real pride in who they rep­re­sent, and I think they do a good job of it.”

“There would be very few times, even times when we have been beaten by good teams, that I would strug­gle to say, ‘well, we didn’t turn up’. I love the way that they turn up.”

Tempt­ing

Un­doubt­edly an­other tempt­ing rea­son to stay put in a coun­try, sys­tem and job that just seems tailor-made for him is the crop of tal­ent com­ing through. Rory Best re­cently ex­pressed his con­fi­dence in the next gen­er­a­tion main­tain­ing Ir­ish suc­cesses, and Sch­midt con­curs. Amongst this group of player could be many of to­day’s side in Soldier Field.

“I cer­tainly think you are go­ing to see a lot of these guys play a lot of games for Ire­land. I’d like to think we have worked pretty hard to get the right per­son­nel, and while Jack [McGrath] is the only starter on Satur­day who is around the 50-cap mark, there are guys who have ‘big caps’,” said Sch­midt.

“What I am say­ing is that caps aren’t all the same. Guys like Bundee Aki and Garry Rin­grose, fin­ish­ing off those Six Na­tions, those are big caps. Those are big ex­pe­ri­ences they can bring to the fore.

“Two years ago Joey Car­bery had his 21st birth­day in a Chicago restau­rant here, and he man­aged the last 20 min­utes of a mon­u­men­tal day for us, a day that we still look back on fondly and I am sure he does,” added the coach in ref­er­ence to Car­bery’s strik­ingly com­posed de­but when help­ing to steer Ire­land over the win­ning line against the All Blacks on his de­but.

“Some­times there is a nice sense of him com­ing back to where it all started and hope­fully tak­ing an­other step. So while he would not have so many big caps start­ing, he has had some big op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he added of Car­bery’s 12th cap and fourth start against Aus­tralia in Mel­bourne.

All told, after Jack McGrath (50 caps) the next most ex­pe­ri­enced player in the start­ing team is Rhys Rud­dock on 19 caps, with Rin­grose the squad’s most capped back on 14.

“I know it is a lit­tle bit of an amal­gam,” ad­mit­ted Sch­midt. “But I hope it is an amal­gam that works for us. I don’t know about 10 years but cer­tainly in the five-year cy­cle we might see an im­me­di­ate one year and the four years that fol­low a lot of those guys will play a lot of games.”

In reel­ing off the im­pend­ing list of threats posed by Ar­gentina next week, Sch­midt self-dep­re­cat­ingly ad­mit­ted this showed how much video anal­y­sis they had done on Los Pu­mas in the last few days.

‘‘ If I’m stay­ing I want the clar­ity go­ing for­ward and if I’m not stay­ing I want the clar­ity for the IRFU be­cause I think half the job is what gets done un­der your watch, the other half of the job is how you leave it

‘Su­per sharp’

The dozen who stayed in camp were sup­ple­ment by Conor Mur­ray, who hasn’t played since the third Test in Syd­ney in June due to a neck prob­lem. He is still un­likely to be pitched back into ac­tion after al­most five months out against Ar­gentina or the All Blacks, but his well­be­ing has given Sch­midt food for thought.

“Well, based on his train­ing in the last few days he’s su­per, su­per sharp,” said Sch­midt, al­most in awe as much as sur­prise. “He did the bit of con­tact that we did, and cer­tainly his pass and his run­ning – we didn’t do any­thing re­ally for him to do a lot of kick­ing – he was sharp.”

“We’re go­ing to prob­a­bly err on the side of be­ing con­ser­va­tive with Conor, just be­cause we want to make sure that he is fully com­fort­able be­fore he re­turns to the pitch – whether it be for us or whether it be for Mun­ster.”

Re­peat­ing that they were li­able to be cau­tious with the All Blacks also in mind, Sch­midt said: “I just think at this stage he would be a very out­side chance of be­ing in­volved. That would be a tough ask. He hasn’t played since the third Test in Aus­tralia and then you’ve got to play the All Blacks.”

Not­ing the pres­ence of Aaron Smith and TJ Per­e­nara, he added: “To be hon­est, he would have to be re­ally fly­ing in that New Zealand week to be in­volved.”

But then the Ir­ish coach con­ceded: “It def­i­nitely gave me food for thought, the last few days, work­ing with him and see­ing how sharp he was.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PA­TRICK HAMIL­TON/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Joe Sch­midt puts Ire­land play­ers through their paces in a pre-match drill dur­ing the sum­mer tour of Aus­tralia .

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.