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'When you look at the stats, I'm really happy with the performance' - Schmidt

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland delivered their second poor performance in a row at the World Cup.

WORD IS THAT Ireland had a plan to sink a fair few beers tonight in their first proper blow-out of this World Cup.

It feels like the session couldn’t be better timed.

Joe Schmidt will give his players this weekend off after they move down to Fukuoka tomorrow and the breather will likely be very welcome. At the moment, this Ireland squad come across as tense and uptight, forcing things that should come more easily.

irelands-players-bow-to-the-fans-after-the-game Ireland bow to the crowd after their 35-0 win over Russia. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Though Ireland understandably put a positive spin on their bonus-point 35-0 win over Russia this evening, they should have very real frustrations about how they played.

Achieving five match points keeps them well in contention to top Pool A and advance into the quarter-finals of the World Cup but this was a second poor performance in a row after they were shocked by Japan last weekend.

It’s true that the humidity in Kobe Misaki Stadium contributed to them conceding 23 turnovers, but it doesn’t explain everything in an edgy performance that also featured scrum penalty concessions, breakdown turnovers against them, missed chances after linebreaks, errors at the attacking maul, misdirected passes, and some poor kick chasing.

We must respect Russia and their hard-working effort, as well as their decent kicking game, but there should also be realism about the team Ireland were facing in Kobe.

Ranked 20th in the world, the Bears had made nine changes to their starting XV and rotated a couple of front-line players out of the side.

They did have a couple of stars in tighthead prop Kirill Gotovtsev and openside flanker Tagir Gadzhiev but the Russians really shouldn’t have been able to live with Ireland, who were 52-point favourites. Captain Vasily Artemyev summed it up when he said that making Ireland work hard for 50 or 60 minutes to achieve their bonus-point had been a good achievement for Russia. 

Following on from the shock against Japan that could only have dented Irish confidence, this was another disappointing showing from Ireland even with 11 personnel changes that were designed to freshen up their effort. Instead, they looked lethargic. 

But with Ireland still tracking towards earning a quarter-final, barring a disaster against Samoa on 12 October, Schmidt insisted he was positive about how his team had played.

“People will maybe have expected more of the performance but when you look at the stats, I’m really happy with the performance and the outcome that we got,” said Schmidt.

“Yes, there were a number of errors but we created a number of pressure points that we’d be pretty happy with.”

ireland-fans-celebrate-winning Ireland had strong support again in Kobe. Source: Jayne Russell/INPHO

Perhaps Schmidt is looking at Ireland’s 11 linebreaks but one has to question why they couldn’t finish more of them. Conceding six penalties is an improvement on last weekend, but Ireland let up the pressure on Russia too often.

Instead of being critical of his own team, Schmidt looked to the conditions in Japan as a reason for his team’s high error count.

“I do think the humidity is something we’re not used to playing with,” he said.

“One of the things about the humidity in the first game was that it was in drops of rain and we’re reasonably well-equipped to deal with that because we’ve played with those conditions a number of times. 

“In a potentially dry stadium with a roof, to have the humidity as it was and the moisture content like it was, it is a little bit foreign to us.

“I think we are adjusting to the conditions. I have heard that it does start to cool off in October… it’s October now so I’m hopeful the conditions will start to change a little but now and we won’t have to adjust as much to them.

“So we’ll find out in nine days’ time. I spent a fair bit of time in my younger years in Samoa and they get very high humidity there, so they may well be a little bit better at adjusting in nine days’ time unless we get a little bit of a drop in the temperature.”

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Schmidt insisted that there were more things that pleased him about Ireland’s latest performance than concerned him, although the injury situation must be a worry for him now.

He praised his team for their strong start, with a well-executed power play to send Rob Kearney over, before Johnny Sexton nudged a grubber through for Peter O’Mahony to score.

an-irish-fan-is-escorted-from-the-pitch An Ireland fan is escorted off the pitch in Kobe. Source: Jayne Russell/INPHO

Schmidt admitted to frustrations at some of the missed opportunities but stressed again that he was “realistic about how tough conditions were out there.”

So while many on the outside will worry that Ireland are on the decline and have lost their self-belief, Schmidt insists they are tracking in the right direction. A bonus-point win next weekend against Samoa would secure them a quarter-final against New Zealand or South Africa.

“I do think we’ve got to take it one game at a time, particularly having lost last week,” said Schmidt.

“So we will set our sights on Samoa because we need to win there to have a chance of qualifying. If we get a win with a little bit more, we know we’re in a quarter-final, we control that ourselves.

“In the end, when you get to a quarter-final everything hinges on the quarter-final itself.

“It becomes very much a one-off game.”

Whether Ireland can produce that one-off performance to finally get beyond a quarter-final remains to be seen, but the outlook at present is not optimistic.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Kobe Misaki Stadium

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