Schmidt's Ireland aspire to emulate England and All Black feats

Eddie Jones’ men are looking for a 19th consecutive win in Dublin this weekend.

AS IF THE prospect of a Grand Slam alone wasn’t enough, England have the chance to claim the honour for a second consecutive year in Dublin on Saturday.

At the same time, Eddie Jones and his players can secure their 19th Test win in a row with victory over Ireland, which would take them beyond the current record for a Tier 1 nation that they share with New Zealand.

Rob Kearney Ireland warm-up before training yesterday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

England are the standard bearers, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.

Of course, it was Joe Schmidt’s side who ended the Kiwis’ remarkable run last November in Chicago, so they have some form in this regard.

Still, this is not what this Six Nations St. Patrick’s weekend in Dublin was supposed to be about. This fixture was lauded as a potential title decider from months ago.

Schmidt and his players may insist that they are not focusing on halting England’s run this weekend, instead concentrating on their own performance, which is all very fair.

But the truth is that England are a side that Ireland are now aspiring to be more like. While Schmidt’s men certainly have a fine degree of consistency in performance, Jones has managed to ensure England have had the results to go along the same consistent standard.

New Zealand and England are the only Tier 1 nations to have achieved 18 consecutive wins, and Ireland are still aspiring to that level.

“What the All Blacks have achieved and what England have achieved now, the All Blacks have been up there for a long time,” says Ireland assistant coach Greg Feek.

“We’ve talked about it and it’s something that with the players we have and that are coming through, it’s something you’d aspire to, definitely.

“I mean, you guys know as well as me whether that’s realistic or not and I think that you can see with the U20s and how that development is going and with the structures that are in place and what we’re building to.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt takes in training at Carton House. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It comes back to certain positions. We might be a bit low in a certain position and we all know that’s not going to happen overnight. But I think when the spotlight goes on to development and long-term planning – and there’s a massive amount of work that goes into that  - 100% you’d want to hopefully, one day, have yourself up there and do that.

“I think in the last three or four years we’ve brought ourselves into a position to be in the top five in the world, and that speaks for itself. And it’s tough to be up there in that area.

“You need to be winning either against big teams or winning consistently to be up in that ranking. So I suppose that’s one part of something, that we can go, ‘This is achievable’.”

Getting back to winning ways at home on Saturday would be a good start for Ireland, obviously, but the English will arrive at the Aviva Stadium brimming with the confidence that their winning streak brings.

While Jones’ men weren’t at their very best earlier in this championship, they continued to find a winning route and then hit their peak against Scotland last weekend to rack up a 61-21 victory.

Ireland, meanwhile, have suffered defeats to Scotland and Wales, but they’re not going along with the theory from the outside that last weekend’s loss in Cardiff was down to underperformance.

“I suppose I thought last week was pretty good,” said Feek. “There were a few errors but that’s probably what Wales did, a little bit maybe us trying a bit too much. In November we capitalised on those field positions and securing those positions, and getting a bit of
continuity and applying that pressure.

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Quinn Roux, Conor Murray, Tiernan O'Halloran and Simon Zebo Simon Zebo cracks a joke on the way to Ireland's session. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“And this time we just slipped up on a couple of those moments which led to the whole thing unravelling a little bit. But for us we still back what we’re doing, we still back the players, we still back our structures.

“If we’ve put in a couple of new things as well that are growing us from what is happening then we’ll do that. But at the moment – I’m not saying we’re not disappointed with where we’re sitting at the table and the couple of losses that we’ve had – there are some really good positive aspects which have come out of it.

“I guess it depends on whether you’re a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full kind of a guy; trying to take positives and keep this machine moving.

“We’re certainly ones to go, ‘Right, this is what we can do. This is what they’ve been doing.’

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Murray Kinsella

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