future plans

'You’ve just got to sit down and make a decision. You can’t let it linger'

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland begin their November Tests campaign against Italy in Chicago today.

Murray Kinsella reports from Chicago

JOE SCHMIDT GOT a night at home with his family on Wednesday, after a camp with some of his senior Ireland players at Carton House had concluded and before he flew out to Chicago to join the rest of his squad for Saturday’s clash with Italy.

Underlining his relentless work rate, Schmidt got through a little more work on Wednesday after his family had headed off to bed, then also “got a few things done” on the flight to the US.

His insatiable desire for improvement and success means there aren’t many times in the year when the Ireland head coach switches off.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt arrived in Chicago on Thursday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Family means most, of course, and his loved ones will be a big factor in the big decision Schmidt plans to make before the end of this month – stay with Ireland beyond the 2019 World Cup, or go.

Schmidt says he is “really good at compartmentalising” and won’t be distracted by the impending decision over the course of the coming weeks with Ireland, but he knows that he needs to make his final call sooner rather than later.

“I’ve spoken to Kellie [his wife], even the kids, talking to Tim [his son] last night, just trying to make a decision that is the right one for all of us really.

“By the end of November I will [make his 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.”

There is far more than rugby involved in his decision, but Schmidt “cannot say that I’ve ever enjoyed working more with a group” and he believes Ireland’s players have got to a point of consistency that makes his life easier.

“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.

“Even times when we have been beaten by good teams, I would struggle to say, ‘Well, we didn’t turn up’. I love the way that they turn up.”

Joe Schmidt Ireland face Italy at Soldier Field today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Among the other reasons for Schmidt to stay would be the sheer talent that continues to come through in Irish rugby, suggesting that the success Ireland are currently enjoying can be sustainable.

Asked about the future, Schmidt name-checks a raft of players who aren’t even currently involved with Ireland – Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Ross Kane, Adam McBurney, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris, Paul Boyle and Connacht’s Sean O’Brien – and looks happy to continue listing the prospects.

Even more pertinently, the team Schmidt has named for today’s clash with Conor O’Shea’s Italy at Soldier Field [KO 8pm, eir Sport] is a strong indication of the future.

Loosehead Jack McGrath has 50 caps, while captain Rhys Ruddock is the next most experienced international with 19, but many of the rest of the side are still relative newcomers at Test level.

And yet, Schmidt points out that players like 14-times-capped Garry Ringrose are far from rookies.

“I certainly think you are going to see a lot of these guys play a lot of games for Ireland,” says Schmidt.

“I’d like to think we have worked pretty hard to get the right personnel, and while Jack is the only starter on Saturday who is around the 50-cap mark, there are guys who have big caps.

“What I am saying is that caps aren’t all the same. Guys like Bundee Aki and Garry, finishing off the 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 Chicago here, and he managed the last 20 minutes of a monumental day for us [against the All Blacks], a day that we still look back on fondly and I am sure he does.

“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.

Joey Carbery Joey Carbery at Soldier Field in Chicago yesterday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Back row-wise, Josh van der Flier started the Six Nations for us at seven, Rhys has played a lot of games for us, and Jack Conan started the last test in Australia, so I know it is a little bit of an amalgam.

“But I hope it is an amalgam that works for us. Certainly, in the five-year cycle we might see, an immediate one year and the four years [before the 2023 World Cup] that follow, a lot of those guys will play a lot of games.”

As ever, Schmidt warned of the quality of Ireland’s opposition this weekend while demonstrating the depth of his pre-game analysis, but Italy are 28-point underdogs for this Chicago tie.

There are big challenges for Ireland further down the line, with an improved Argentina and then the All Blacks to visit Dublin in the coming weeks. 

Schmidt remaining at home for the first half of this week to work with the likes of Johnny Sexton was an indicator of the seriousness of those Tests, meaning “a dual-based” Ireland squad from Monday to Wednesday.

Schmidt strongly rejected the suggestion that Ireland being in the US to play Italy was “a contractual obligation.”

The IRFU says it will not earn the €1 million that has been reported as their fee for taking part in this game, claiming the sum is closer to €250,000, but Schmidt’s only focus is on the rugby reasons for being in Chicago.

“These weeks are really precious to me and they are to every one of the players,” he says. “The shop window doesn’t get lit up too often so they want to make sure they get into the shop window and take every opportunity.”


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Joey Carbery
9. Luke McGrath

1. Jack McGrath
2. Niall Scannell
3. Andrew Porter
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Quinn Roux
6. Rhys Ruddock (captain)
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan


16. Sean Cronin
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Devin Toner
20. Jordi Murphy
21. John Cooney
22. Ross Byrne
23. Will Addison


15. Luca Sperandio
14. Mattia Bellini 
13. Michele Campagnaro (captain)
12. Luca Morisi
11. Giulio Bisegni
10. Carlo Canna 
9. Tito Tebaldi 

1. Nicola Quaglio
2. Luca Bigi
3. Tiziano Pasquali
4. Marco Fuser 
5. George Fabio Biagi
6. Johan Meyer
7. Abraham Steyn
8. Renato Giammarioli 


16. Oliviero Fabiani
17. Cherif Traore
18. Giosue Zilocchi 
19. Marco Lazzaroni
20. Federico Ruzza
21. Jimmy Tuivaiti
22. Guglielmo Palazzani
23. Ian McKinley

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU]. 

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