Sch­midt: I will not dwell on past fail­ures

Ire­land coach says 2015 is not to be men­tioned Squad de­ter­mined to ‘hit the ground run­ning’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Rugby -

in Yokohama

One of Ire­land’s train­ing ses­sions was briefly in­ter­rupted this week when smoke started is­su­ing from a build­ing next to the pitch in Chiba. It turned out to be a fire sta­tion do­ing prac­tice drills. A false alarm.

It is Ire­land who need to catch fire now. Joe Sch­midt ad­mit­ted as much yes­ter­day, stress­ing that his team had to “hit the ground run­ning” at this World Cup as he named his strong­est avail­able team to face Scot­land in their Pool A opener at Yokohama In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium to­mor­row.

Sch­midt was talk­ing about the dif­fer­ences be­tween this cam­paign and Ire­land’s last one four years ago, and the les­sons he learned.

“It’s so dif­fer­ent be­cause we didn’t start with the same level of match last time,” the New Zealan­der said. “And that’s no dis­re­spect to Canada. But they weren’t a big tier one op­po­nent where the play­ers know each other re­ally well. I think that fa­mil­iar­ity makes us a lit­tle ner­vous and prob­a­bly makes Scot­land a lit­tle ner­vous.

“This time we def­i­nitely have to hit the ground run­ning. This is the equiv­a­lent of the France game from last time, but first up.”

Sch­midt has named his strong­est avail­able team, but not his strong­est pos­si­ble team. Jor­dan Lar­mour and An­drew Con­way come in for Rob Kear­ney and Keith Earls, who were al­ways un­likely to make it back from nig­gling in­juries de­spite Ire­land’s protes­ta­tions mid­week that they would be fit.

Those are sig­nif­i­cant changes. While both Lar­mour and Con­way are ex­cit­ing play­ers – Sch­midt spoke of the “con­ta­gious” ex­u­ber­ance they could bring – Ire­land’s back three of Lar­mour, Con­way and Ja­cob Stock­dale does sud­denly feel a lot more vul­ner­a­ble, par­tic­u­larly given the weather fore­cast for rain. Greig Laid­law and Finn Rus­sell will no doubt look to test them early on.

Sch­midt will hope that his for­ward pack can bully Scot­land’s, al­low­ing Ire­land to con­trol the con­test at source. And a front row of Cian Healey, Rory Best and Tadhg Fur­long, and a sec­ond row of Iain Hen­der­son and James Ryan does look more than a match for Scot­land’s tight five.

He will then rely on Conor Mur­ray and Johnny Sex­ton – a clas­sic dou­ble act, al­beit one that feels like it has not per­formed for quite a while – to make the most of the ball they are given. Rather in­cred­i­bly, Mur­ray is the only sur­vivor from the back­line that last fea­tured for Ire­land at a World Cup, in their quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat by Ar­gentina four years ago.

That statis­tic is slightly mis­lead­ing as there were plenty of in­juries then and now. But it does high­light that this is a rel­a­tively new squad. In fact of the match day 23, eight of Ire­land’s starters and the en­tirety of their bench have never played in a World Cup match.

Ire­land will hope that the new play­ers, un­tainted by the fail­ures of the past, will man­age to go fur­ther than their pre­de­ces­sors. In any case, Mur­ray said it would be fool­ish to keep hark­ing back to 2015. “This is a dif­fer­ent group,” he stressed. “I’ve talked about it any time I’ve done me­dia be­fore the World Cup – the last four years and what we have done and the re­sults we have had. It would be fool­ish of us now to start talk­ing about 2015 within the group.”

Ire­land know they have a golden op­por­tu­nity but it de­pends on them mak­ing a good start. If they can win to­mor­row’s game against Scot­land, and then see off Ja­pan next week, they should win the pool com­fort­ably, given their last two games are against Rus­sia and Samoa. Top­ping the pool would also give them an ex­tra day to pre­pare for either New Zealand or South Africa, depend­ing on the out­come of to­day’s match be­tween the Pool B heavy­weights.

“If we go into that quar­ter-fi­nal we’d love to get that ex­tra day to pre­pare for it, re­gard­less of who that op­po­nent will be,” he said.

“We’ll have a bet­ter idea later po­ten­tially who that op­po­nent will be with our­selves, Scot­land or Ja­pan top­ping the pool. But to have a chance we must hit the ground run­ning against Scot­land.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.