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Schmidt keen to jump Japan hurdle before turning to 'heavyweight' Boks

The Ireland boss was pleased with how his side built a lead against Scotland, then kept it.

WE’RE STILL IN just the third day of the World Cup in Japan but already some things are beginning to take shape.

Ireland’s convincing 27-3 win over Pool A rivals Scotland in Yokohama the evening after the All Blacks beat Pool B rivals South Africa in the same venue sets Joe Schmidt’s side on course for a quarter-final meeting with the Boks. 

the-ireland-team-bow-to-the-fans-after-the-game Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

Rassie Erasmus’ men just have to beat Italy, Canada, and Namibia to secure their spot as runners-up, presuming the Kiwis beat the same opponents to advance as Pool B winners.

Ireland, meanwhile, have to overcome Japan, Russia and Samoa to grab top spot in Pool A.

It would be a major shock if those events didn’t work out as expected, meaning Schmidt will be diving deep into analysis of the Springboks imminently – if he already hasn’t done so.

While the Ireland boss insists he has only got thoughts for Japan in six days’ time, he couldn’t help but be impressed as he watched the high-quality clash between the Boks and All Blacks last night.

Either way, this win against Scotland should allow Schmidt to begin the early stages of his planning for a quarter-final.

“I thought it was a heavyweight contest last night,” said Schmidt in Yokohama after his side scored four tries against the Scots and kept them tryless.

“We might be light heavyweight or middleweight, I don’t know, but it was a super game last night. Maybe slightly different conditions, but South Africa were bristling and the All Blacks were brilliant at times with those two tries they got.

“It’s a very different situation for us from the World Cup last time, where we were trying to build our way through the pool knowing France was the highest-ranked opponent we were going to have and it was going to be a real mountain to climb into that game.

“We may be able to manage the squad this time, you might think, but I know that watching Japan, that first half they played against England [last November], they went through the Pacific Nations Cup unbeaten. They’re a dangerous team and if they get some tempo, we might be on the back foot. We’ve got to take it step-by-step.

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joe-schmidt-ahead-of-the-game Schmidt before kick-off in Yokohama. Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

“We won’t be talking too much about South Africa. If we maybe can get past Japan, I think you’re right – we’ve got Russia and Samoa. Hopefully, at that stage, we can potentially manage players.”

Ireland lost Peter O’Mahony and Bundee Aki to head injuries that leave them in a race to be fit to face Japan, given the six-day turnaround, while Johnny Sexton appeared to take a knock as he handed place-kicking responsibilities to Conor Murray.

But this was a superb day for Ireland and Schmidt took pride in the collective performance, as well as how his side built their 17-3 half-time lead.

“I was delighted with all 23,” said Schmidt. “One of the things that sometimes happens is you build a lead and lose a bit of cohesion when guys start filtering in and out. I didn’t really detect that happening.

“Conditions made it really difficult for us to construct things but we got the only try of the second half when a lot of those replacements were on. The scrum that we turned over with the replacements was really impressive and I know Besty was in the middle of that but he had a couple of new partners either side of him with Andrew Porter and Dave Kilcoyne, so that was really pleasing.

“But also that front-foot we got off to. It just takes a bit of pressure off in the game. It means they have to chase it a little bit, they have to take a few more risks than we do. At the same time, I was happy with the number of risks we did take.

“CJ Stander through the middle, we got nothing off. And Chris Farrell, when he got through off that scrum play, again, we didn’t get the result we were looking for

“But when you build the pressure that we did I think it is very much a collective performance.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from International Stadium Yokohama

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