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'We've already been stung once by going in a bit undercooked' - Schmidt

An emotional, frenetic occasion awaits Ireland in Cardiff tomorrow night.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS many skills as a rugby coach, but he’s happy to admit that firing up his players is not a key part of his repertoire.

Of course, there are many ways to motivate rugby players, but the Ireland head coach certainly doesn’t go in for screaming and shouting in the build-up to games.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt says he's not great at pre-match motivation. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

So, with his team facing into what promises to be a hugely emotional and frenetic occasion at a packed-out and probably quite drunk Principality Stadium in Cardiff tomorrow night, Schmidt will leave that kind of talking to others.

“I’m not great at it, to be honest,” said Schmidt at Carton House yesterday. “As a coach you tend to stick with what you think works really well and then leave it to other people to maybe spark a bit of emotion.

“We have got some players who are pretty good at it. When we get off the plane in Cardiff, it is usually player-led then.

“If something needs to be said, it’s usually said by one of the established players. I’d like to think most players feel free to contribute a word or two to help focus the minds.”

Schmidt’s role in the build-up revolves around preparing his team tactically and technically, right down to the finest details.

His excellence in those departments is a constant source of confidence for these Irish players. But Schmidt’s focus on these areas of the game as utterly central to success does not mean he dismisses the importance of the emotional side of the game.

It’s always interesting to note the manner in which defence coach Andy Farrell speaks to the Irish players during their pre-game warm-ups – full of energetic body language, commanding instructions, volume. Perhaps one of the reasons Schmidt employed him.

The Ireland head coach feels his playing squad is full of players who can bring those mental fillips too, citing Jamie Heaslip, Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls as men who “seem to have a pretty good idea of what level they need to get to.”

Joe Schmidt with Rory Best Schmidt speaks with Ireland captain Rory Best. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Those leaders influence the rest of the squad, and Schmidt knows they will be of vital importance in those roles tomorrow against a Wales side that has been wounded badly.

Rob Howley’s men are under pressure after defeats to England and Scotland followed their opening-weekend win over Italy, and with a full house due in Cardiff tomorrow night, it would be shock if his unchanged team did not at least physically unleash their frustration on Ireland.

Ahead of the clash with what Schmidt terms “a very dogmatic” Welsh side, he is wary of the possible negative effects of Ireland being below the ideal mental pitch.

Schmidt saw how damaging that can be on the opening weekend of the Six Nations, when Ireland’s dire start against Scotland cost them dearly.

“Emotionally our players will be up as well. They have to be because you can’t miss a beat because the margins are so fine,” said Schmidt.

“We have already been stung once by going in a little bit undercooked and not being at the same heightened level that our opponents were. So I would hope that we would be as ready as Wales are.

“There is something about playing at home, it was fantastic to get back to our own home last week, the Aviva, it seemed like a long time that we hadn’t been back there. I know it had only been two games, but there was the bye week, so you were four weeks into the championship before you actually kick-off in the Aviva.

“I have no doubt Wales – particularly on the back of having lost their last two games and having lost in the Principality Stadium to England in their last visit there – will be highly motivated and we have to match that level of motivation.”

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Murray Kinsella

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