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Schmidt: 'I'm a little bit broken... you carry your scars more than your successes'

The Ireland head coach’s six-year tenure came to an end with a crushing defeat to the All Blacks.

WITH THE CRESTFALLEN and now retired Rory Best sitting alongside him, Joe Schmidt looked like he had seen a ghost. 

The Ireland boss went on to admit that his team’s drop-off in form since the heights of 2018 had perhaps been down to an obsession with winning a World Cup quarter-final. 

This was a horrible note on which to end his six-year tenure as Ireland head coach, a reign that has brought a Grand Slam, two other Six Nations titles, a series win in Australia and two wins over the All Blacks.

joe-schmidt-with-cj-stander-after-the-game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It would be cruel if Schmidt was remembered only for two World Cup quarter-final defeats. The majority of fans won’t see his time in charge as a failure, but those two knock-out games will haunt the New Zealander as he moves on from the job.

“You tend to carry your scars a lot more than your successes and those scars are deep,” said a dejected Schmidt in Tokyo Stadium after his team had been hammered 46-14 by the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-finals.

This scar will be deeper than the one from four years ago when Ireland were beaten by Argentina after losing five key players to injury and suspension.

“That’s why I’m a little bit broken,” said Schmidt. “I think when I get some distance to reflect on maybe 75 Test matches and we’ve won 74% of them, there have been some incredibly good days.

“I don’t think they get washed away by two defeats in days where we are incredibly disappointed. I felt we had good reason four years ago when we lost our leadership before the quarter-final.

“Today, we just met a team who I think are number one in the world for a reason.

“If you’re not on the money, you’re going to be incredibly disappointed and I am.”

Schmidt said he doesn’t “really have an excuse for it or a reason for it” when asked about Ireland’s deeply damaging error count against the Kiwis in Tokyo.

joe-schmidt-walks-down-through-the-crowd-after-the-game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland’s concession of 17 turnovers, many of them handling errors, was alarming and Schmidt admitted that perhaps his team had become too obsessed with this World Cup quarter-final after beating the All Blacks in Dublin last November.

It means Ireland still haven’t won a knock-out game at a World Cup in their history. 

“It’s a tough question,” said Schmidt when asked why that is the case. “This group of players have achieved a lot and that’s the one thing that remains and it continues to remain elusive so we’re incredibly disappointed.

“Heartbroken wouldn’t be too far away from how I feel and how the players feel right now.

“Because right after the November series when we played the All Blacks last year we decided to make sure that this was our target.

“Maybe it consumed us a little bit and we got distracted from our game-to-game focus.”

Ireland’s decline since those heights of 2018 – when they won a Grand Slam, beat the Aussies in a series Down Under, then stunned the All Blacks – has been tough to fathom.

“I think there’s always a myriad of factors,” said Schmidt on that drop-off.

“I do think when you hit a height there is always a little bit of a drop because it’s not perfect. We work with human beings and inevitably when you’ve reached a height there is, certainly not complacency, but there was an unfortunate aiming up for this tournament.

joe-schmidt-walks-down-through-the-crowd-after-the-game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“One of the things we tried to do was experiment a little bit in the Six Nations, give some responsibility to a few younger players, try to build the group.

“We tried to use the Six Nations as a platform for that. Because we had won three of the last five of them, this [World Cup] is really what we wanted.

“And so that’s why it’s so devastating that we didn’t produce the performance that we needed on the night and while there might be reasons for that with the short week that we had and the niggles that we had so that we weren’t quite as re-generated as we would have liked to have been.

“That error count makes it incredibly hard. I don’t really have a reason for that, other than on the night there was always anxiety, there are always guys who might overreach and as a result you don’t get the performance that you’re looking for.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo Stadium

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