WHILE JOE SCHMIDT said last week that Ireland could realistically target second place in the Six Nations, winger Luke Fitzgerald has gone a step further in his goal-setting.
As the 26-year-old admitted, his international coach is responsible for managing public expectations amidst the excitement that exists around the New Zealander’s first campaign in the competition. For Fitzgerald, however, if you’re not first, you’re last.
“I don’t think I do anyone any disrespect or disservice by saying that I want to win the thing, simple as. I think anything less than first place: you’re a loser aren’t you? If I’m involved, I’m going for first place. I’m not going for second.
Joe is obviously trying to manage expectations. He has a different job to me. We’re all looking to win. I don’t think that’s any disrespect to anyone.”
Fitzgerald was keen to stress that he believes each of the teams involved will be preparing for the Six Nations with the same mentality. This is not arrogance or getting an idea above Ireland’ station; every player and team goes out to win every single game they play.
That game-by-game focus is something Fitzgerald is keen for Ireland to bring back this year, having seen its effectiveness at close quarters in 2009. The Grand Slam success was down to the ability to focus on each fixture as it came, according to the Blackrock RFC clubman.
“I think every other team is doing the same thing. Now, how they go about saying that to the media is completely different. You show respect for every game; you treat it as a cup final. That is key.
Fitzgerald wants Ireland to repeat the focus that brought glory in 2009. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.
“That was one of the things we got right in 2009. We took every game on its own merits, dealt with that first, did the best we could, got refocused on the next day, the next job. Same formula every time. It’s great, it’s the best way to focus. All the best teams are really good at that.”
Fitzgerald fully recognises the challenges that await over the coming seven weeks or so. With France focused on bouncing back from a disastrous 2013, England’s pack offering fearsome power, Wales as potent in attack as ever, Scotland looking for revolution and Italy’s abilities broadening, this may be a rocky road.
Still, Ireland have the goods to come out on top.
I am pretty sure I speak for everyone in the squad when I say we want to win it. There’s no way we want to come second or third. At the same time, it is definitely tricky. We have England and France away. They are the traditional powerhouses.
“Wales are coming here. They have been pretty strong for the last couple of years – that is an understatement. It is definitely very tough but with the squad and coaching staff we have, it is not beyond us.”
Keep an eye out for a full-length interview with Luke Fitzgerald on TheScore.ie later this morning.
- Luke Fitzgerald has announced the first two extraordinary rugby experiences for fans on the Guinness Plus app. Supporters who use the app to ‘check-in’ at a participating pub on the match days against Scotland and Wales will be in with the chance to win ‘Money Can’t Buy’ experiences for them and their friends. The app is available to download for iPhone and Android smartphones.