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Discipline and 'pokerfacing' the opposition vital part of Schmidt culture

Dominic Ryan was perfectly calm despite getting the closest of close-up views of a Georgian boot.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

NOBODY WATCHING FROM the stands or at home would have criticised Dominic Ryan if he lost the rag a little yesterday.

The flanker was clumsily trod on by Georgia’s Viktor Kolelishvili, the openside’s hindmost stud prodding Ryan in the right eye in the process.

The reaction may have been different if the stakes had been higher, but the collective reaction from Ireland amounted to no more than a question being asked by captain Eoin Reddan. And post-match, Ryan was fully understanding of the man with the big misplaced boot.

“It was just that it was directly in my eye,” the Leinster man said.

“I don’t think it was intentional, it was a mistake. He was just coming through the ruck so I can’t hold anything against him.”

Throughout the past year, Ireland have boasted impressive discipline stats in terms of penalties conceded and yellow cards incurred, and this incident simply distilled the cool-headed approach Joe Schmidt wants from his squad.

Ryan, having been coached by Schmidt for the Kiwi’s entire tenure at Leinster, didn’t need time to adapt his approach.

“It’s a big thing that Joe drives within our team is discipline; pokerfacing the opposition no matter what happens. The best way to react to that sort of behaviour is to score a try. That was our comeback.”

Of much less immediate danger to a player’s health and sight was the visitors’ ability to frustrate and spoil at the breakdown. Ireland fell a long way short of their desired levels of accuracy and execution in the opening 40 minutes of the 49 – 7 victory. However, along with a helpful sin-binning, a quick reminder of breakdown best practice at the half-time focused Ryan and his team-mates on the job immediately in front of them.

“The ref had to sort them out at the breakdown, a couple of infringements at the breakdown and their tackler wasn’t releasing, so between that and us getting our clean out right it made the difference in the second half.”

Asked what the overriding message at the interval was, Ryan added: Just sort out a few things around the ruck. If the ref wasn’t going to take it into his hands we had to sort it out ourselves. Clean deep on the rucks, blow past and get the ball on a plate for our nine.”

If at first you don’t succeed, maul and maul again

There was another important message at half-time, from forwards coach Simon Easterby who had seen his maul click into gear three times in the Georgian 22, only to be derailed within metres of the try-line.

Much like the breakdown efforts, the break allowed Ireland make minor tweaks and reassurances to make the bigger picture seem like a complete transformation.

JP Doyle with head coach Joe Schmidt and Simon Easterby Referee JP Doyle with Joe Schmidt and Simon Easterby pre-match Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We were very close in the first half. We thought we should have cross the line with one of our mauls. At half time Simon had a word with us and said ‘we’re close guys’. So just little things like maybe lifters weren’t strong enough, or we didn’t brace hard enough for the impact the Georgians were giving us. So we just said we’d go out with an aim to brace it up, brace the force of the Georgians better and we went over twice.”

Cool heads, dealing with frustration and solving problems – if Ireland can continue to demonstrate such an exemplary mindset, who knows what they might achieve.

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Sean Farrell

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