Schmidt to ring changes for Romania after attacking progress in Cardiff

The Kiwi head coach had always planned to field a fresh XV for the second Pool D clash.


While Ireland will take a breather to catch the All-Ireland final when they arrive at St. George’s Park, their team base for the next five days, but the focus swiftly moves on to the next challenge.

Joe Schmidt with Brian O'Driscoll Schmidt chats with Brian O'Driscoll in Cardiff yesterday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

After what looked like close to a first-choice Schmidt XV dealt with the Canadians comfortably, Ireland’s coaching staff now look to make widespread changes to the team for the meeting with Romania in Wembley a week from now.

No new injury worries from yesterday’s win in Cardiff is a major positive, and Schmidt says his original plans for the Romania tie haven’t been greatly altered.

“I don’t think too much has changed in our thoughts, because we got through unscathed. There will be some guys who go back out and some guys who will come in, and that was probably always our intention – to utilise not the full breadth, but a fair bit of the breadth of the squad in those first two matches.

There’s some guys who haven’t had a lot of game time, the obvious one is Cian Healy,” said Schmidt. “But there’s a few other guys who could do with a bit of game time.

“Through these first two games, the ideal would be that they all get a bit of game time to be prepared for the back end of the pool. At the same time, we’ve got to be conscious that every match is going to be tough.”

The Canadian challenge didn’t prove to be too great, even if Kieran Crowley’s side showed ambition with ball in hand, but even given the weak opposition Ireland were pleased with their own performance.

Schmidt cited discipline and a loss of structure early in the second half as issues to be ironed out, but there was menace from Ireland with ball in hand. Forwards passed, there were fresh shapes in phase play and the set-piece strikes were superb.

After holding back in the World Cup warm-ups, this was a different looking thrust from Ireland’s attack. Is this the blueprint now for Ireland or simply a cutting of the cloth for the Canadians’ weaknesses?

Dave Kearney scores their fourth try Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“A bit of both, to be honest,” said Schmidt. “It was a mix of what we have been working on during the pre-season and it’s also a little bit tailored for what we felt we’d have to do with Canada. I think they stay in the game really well.

“If you try to outmuscle them, I don’t think they physically lack any prowess there. We wanted to get them chasing a little bit, but we knew we had to do that really well with so many sevens players in their group.

“It’s probably a little bit of what we tried to do today and in the next game against Romania, we’ll have a look and probably try to do something that suits that game, hopefully.”

Perhaps the most satisfying try of the seven yesterday for Ireland was Dave Kearney’s first-half effort. Mike Ross joked that he and Jack McGrath should have got a pass from the wing out on the right touchline after holding their width, but it was beautifully constructed.

Sean O’Brien started on the left wing from a lineout platform, battered over the gainline and allowed Ireland to rapidly transfer the ball back wide right, skirting around the Canadian midfield with clever decoy running and a loop play, freeing Luke Fitzgerald to beat a fattie and feed Kearney with a two-man overlap outside him.

Two phase power play, perfectly mapped out and executed. That kind of success gives Schmidt’s players an untold amount of confidence.

“Some of the moves we did out there, we got a bit of a return on doing our analysis, seeing where the space was against Canada,” says number eight Jamie Heaslip. “It’s always rewarding to put the work in and actually get that reward.

“Joe gave us a warning after the game that there’s work-ons, we all know that. But in general, we’re pretty satisfied about getting a return on our work. When you’re on a pitch like that, Cardiff is quite wide, it’s nice to exploit a bit of space.”

Peter O'Mahony with Brett Beukeboom The lineout and scrum were effective for Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

That try came from a lineout platform and it was another hugely successful outing for Ireland’s set-piece. 100% on their own throw and 100% at the scrum too, the sense of pride Ireland feel in those departments lives on.

The quality of the ball provided by Ross and his fellow forwards was excellent and will continue to be key moving forward in the tournament. The veteran tighthead is keen for the Irish pack to mix that steady supply to the backs with keeping the ball in the scrum at times.

“It depends on where we are on the pitch and what’s appropriate,” says Ross. “We have a good set of backs who have nice moves so we can use them, but if we feel we’ve got the edge then we’re going to try and keep it in, as you saw on the five-metre line.

It’s not just play off it, but it does help to have that platform for good, quick ball for the backs.

“It’s good to have a coach who appreciates a good scrum. I think it’s paid dividends as we play off it an awful lot and the quality of the ball is good too.”

Ross and several other key men are likely to sit it out, but Romania looms for others. Set-piece will be key.

“That’s the main focus, the scrum,” says Ross. “It’ll be a tough encounter.”

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