Six Nations 2014: Joe Schmidt battling to keep Irish feet on the ground

Victory against England on Saturday week will earn Ireland a Triple Crown

Momentum is the great intangible influence within the Six Nations, and as Ireland begin to pick up speed approaching Fortress Twickenham, their coach Joe Schmidt is already guarding against the enemy from within his players’ heads.

Victory in south-west  London on Saturday week will earn Ireland a Triple Crown and set them on a course for a Grand Slam. Having already scored 54 points in two games while outmuscling the title holders at Lansdowne Road, Schmidt is fully aware that the famed good nature of the Irish public will now turn a shade greedier.

“It’s the next game, so it’s the biggest challenge [of my career]. That’s the way it is. As the next game it is massive though,” explained the New Zealander. “It’s huge, and I think part of what we have to manage now is player anxiety because they’re going to be made well aware of the public expectation.

“We want to actually develop but that expectation does build anxiety because you know to meet that expectation on the day you’re going to have to be bang-on and there are a lot of variables that will make that difficult to do. And that’s our challenge.”

Many observers fancied this fixture between the two Celtic heavyweights to play out as one of the games of the tournament; sadly Ireland’s efforts suffocated a one-dimensional Wales and we must now put some stock into hoping that the Anglo-Irish affair will  provide a contest of quality and drama. For all their power and might, Wales failed to exert any sustained pressure in Dublin and while they appeared not to possess a Plan B, coach Warren Gatland argued that the Irish  tactics were also plain and rudimentary.

“In fairness to Ireland they’ve played very effective rugby, they played in close, they were very competitive at the breakdown. What were the kicking stats? [46 to 27]. They’ve kicked the leather off it but it’s been effective,” said Gatland. “They played a lot of one-pass rugby and potentially sometimes in the past we’ve been criticised for not playing rugby.”

Asked if Schmidt’s tactics had surprised him, Gatland replied: “Yeah, possibly. Yeah, I think that was effective… I can’t remember any occasion where they’ve moved the ball through the backline to try and attack.”

You could chalk that up as win for Schmidt over his compatriot, then. However, the Ireland coach subscribes to the mantra that the devil is always in the detail and he admitted that forecast conditions of swirling rain had impacted on his game plan. However, dry conditions at kick-off didn’t force any major rethink because Schmidt was plainly aware that the best way to counter the Welsh blitz defence was to avoid it by kicking and mauling.

Will that be the plan at HQ? It’s hard to say because already it is becoming clear that, although Schmidt is aiming to install the fundamentals that brought so much success at Leinster, his approach to Test match rugby is very much  tailored towards the strengths and weaknesses of Ireland’s opposition.

Gatland mentioned that Ireland drew from a certain amount of emotion, and while it is a dangerous commodity to invest in, the Irish will not lack for it against the sight of the Red Rose, which crushed them 30-9 in 2012 and upset them in Dublin last year.

Hooker Rory Best accepted that Ireland’s rivalry with Wales and the individual disappointment for some of their Lions tourists provided the mental fuel for their ferocious efforts in the contact zones.

“I suppose that’s something else we talked about – to bring them [Wales] here into our home ground and to make sure that we made a physical statement early on; to try to see it in their eyes that after 10 minutes they knew we meant business and that we weren’t going to let our foot off the throat,” said the experienced Ulster player.

“There’s probably no greater example than the way Brian O’Driscoll played.  He didn’t go out of his way to make a point, he just did what he always does and that is to play unbelievably well in the team environment to make sure that we get a performance and that ultimately we get the result. That’s what we’re about – we’re about getting performances and results,” he added.

Scorers: Ireland - Tries: Henry, Jackson. Cons: Sexton, Jackson. Pens: Sexton 4. Wales - Pen: Halfpenny.

Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble (F McFadden 61), B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, DKearney; J Sexton (P Jackson 75), C Murray (I Boss 79); C Healy (J McGrath 66), R Best ( S Cronin 73), M Ross (M Moore 55), D Toner,  P O’Connell (capt, D Tuohy 65), P O’Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip.

Wales: L Halfpenny: A Cuthbert, S Williams (L Williams 17), J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips; G Jenkins (P James 70), R Hibbard (K Owens 61), A Jones (R Jones 61), A Coombs, A Wyn Jones (J Ball 70),  D Lydiate (J Tipuric 70), S Warburton (capt), T  Faletau.

Referee: W Barnes (England).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?