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'I try not to get distracted by people who throw out opinions and not back it up'

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has defended the nature of his team’s attacking tactics.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS defended Ireland’s style of play, as perceptions that they are based on one-out phases persist.

Ireland’s approach to attack has undergone a clear shift in the last year or so, with an increasing use of forwards to pass the ball and attempts from Schmidt’s men to hit the wide channels more regularly.

The execution of those attacking tactics has not always been perfect, but the signs are clear for anyone willing to take a closer look.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt was adamant his team's attack has variety. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There is, of course, still lots of use of big ball carriers as one-out runners off scrum-half Conor Murray, but then every team in the world relies on such tactics at times.

Ireland are largely focused on one-out phases in the opposition 22, but their tactics in this area are often very effective and lead to many of their tries.

Speaking yesterday after naming his side to face France in tomorrow’s Six Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium [KO 4.50pm], Schmidt again defended his team’s approach to attack.

“What is the percentage of one-out runners? It’s a lot less than second handling. Again, I try not to get distracted by people who throw out opinions and not back it up with what they’ve actually had a look at.

“There are times where it is inevitable that you are only going to get one transfer because defensive lines are coming so hard and so fast.

“If you try to get another transfer, it will be even more attritional because the guy who receives the second pass will get knocked over man and ball. Some of it is making sure, if you can, you manipulate the defensive line so that you can buy enough time to make enough transfers.

“I think – I know it was Italy – that we got away from in that last 20 minutes. But, right through November, I’m not sure about the references to one-out runners because it is not something I saw in Chicago or in the Aviva.

“It is not something I’ve really seen so far in the Six Nations.

“Once you get into the opposition 22 and they don’t have to defend the backfield, they’ve got 14 guys or 15 guys on the frontline, it is very hard to put a number of passes together, just because of the nature of the defence.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt knows this weekend is make-or-break. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It is attritional because it is a very physical game. It is attritional because we wouldn’t be the biggest team around. We’ve got to try to be really accurate in what we do.

“It is one of those things. You try to keep a balance and you try to look after players by not forcing passes back to players who are under more pressure and loading them up with a man and ball situation.”

The rates of passing from Ireland’s forwards have grown in the past year, while their offloading numbers also continue to rise, although it remains to be seen if those trends continue against les Bleus.

Variety in attack would certainly be valuable against what is a physically powerful French side, with tip-on passes, link passes and width in Ireland’s game plan looking like being important against Guy Novès’ men.

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After all, this is now knock-out rugby for Ireland and if they cannot find an effective formula against the French, their title hopes are over.

“Mathematically, there’s not too many other ways of looking at it,” said Schmidt.

“England have obviously got a little bit of a flyer on everyone else, because they’re the only unbeaten team, so for ourselves, Scotland, Wales and France, there’s going to be two teams that are left hanging in and two teams that are effectively out of the race for the top spot and will be scrambling for the other places.

“We’re desperately keen to stay alive and I know the players have been working well this week and working hard towards it. I know they’ll certainly be working hard on Saturday.

“The conditions and the circumstances that occur in the game, you can’t control them all, but they’ll be trying to make sure that at the end of the weekend, we’re one of the three teams that still have a chance.”

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