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'Nothing feels monumental when it’s one-all': Schmidt focused on winning series in Sydney

The Ireland head coach isn’t getting carried away, as he turns his attention to next week’s deciding Test.

A MOMENTOUS WIN, Ireland’s first on Australian soil in 39 years, but Joe Schmidt was reluctant to get too carried away in the immediate aftermath in Melbourne, instead reminding everyone that “nothing feels monumental” with the series level at 1-1.

Joe Schmidt Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland rebounded from their defeat in Brisbane in impressive fashion yesterday as they recorded a first away win over the Wallabies since 1979, to set up a mouth-watering series decider in Sydney next weekend.

It was a much-improved Ireland performance as the visitors displayed their trademark clinical edge, most notably during the 10 minutes Marika Koroibete was in the bin to score 13 unanswered points, and they never surrendered the lead from there, dominating possession and territory.

Lighting quick ball allowed Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton orchestrate proceedings, but the work of the forwards ensured Ireland dominated the breakdown as Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander were outstanding in negating the threat of Pocock and co. on the ground.

Indeed, there were immense performances around the park. O’Mahony led from the front exceptionally, Stander topped the tackle charts, Murray and Sexton were at their world-class best and Tadhg Furlong was fully deserving of his man of the match award.

A 26-21 victory not only meant Ireland avoided back-to-back Test defeats for the first time since June 2016 but ensured they maintained their grip on second place in the world rankings, while giving them all the momentum heading to Sydney.

Schmidt, however, remain level-headed in his assessment of what captain O’Mahony described as Ireland’s best performance of the season.

“Probably not right now because all we did was balance the series,” the head coach said when asked if it felt like a big moment for this group, particularly with the World Cup on the horizon.

“I think it all depends on what we can deliver next week and I know the Wallabies will be thinking the same thing. They’re a really good side and if they do get a bit more access I know as you saw toward the end we were chasing shadows.

“So, nothing feels monumental when it’s one-all. It feels like there’s still a huge amount to play for.

“So we’ll glue ourselves back together, get the trip out of the way to Sydney today and Monday, have a bit of a look back at the game and them Tuesday/Thursday get back out on the training pitch in North Sydney Oval and try to work our way through things.

“As Pete said, there’s still a few things that we know we need to do better because we know they’re going to keep getting better. I think it’s really evenly poised and I wouldn’t be keen on favouring either side just because the way the series has gone so far, both games have really been in the balance.”

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Rob Kearney applauds the supporters after the game Ireland players celebrate victory in Melbourne. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt outlined after the game that he was confident Andrew Conway, who scored Ireland’s opening try but was forced off through injury soon after, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy will all recover from their respective knocks in time for the deciding Test.

The Kiwi hailed the impact Conway’s replacement, Jordan Larmour, made off the bench as the 21-year-old was thrown into the action early on for the second week running, while Keith Earls received praised for his work under the high ball against Israel Folau.

There were countless positives for Ireland on a night they received huge support inside AAMI Park in Melbourne.

“I think we looked after out ball a lot better, there were probably half as many turnovers as we had last week, so that didn’t allow them as much access to play off turnover ball, where we know they’re so dangerous,” Schmidt continued in his post-match assessment.

“I felt we repaired a bit of stuff in the air, I don’t think Israel Folau had as much access because Keith Earls was super in the air, he got very high. He’s not quite the same size as Israel Folau but he is dynamic when he’s going up for the ball.

“The scrum was nice and solid and I felt we even got a little bit of pressure at times, and the ball retention was good.”

He added: “Part of what we committed to here coming on the tour was to try to provide opportunity. It was great for Tadhg Beirne to make his Test debut this evening, and he acquitted himself really well.

“There were a couple of really good tackles in that last 15 minutes that he was involved, and Jordan Larmour — another really important investment for him to get really good time in a test match where he’s going to be put under pressure in a Test match. I thought he acquitted himself really well.

“So, those aspects are things that are positives for us regardless of the outcome but we’re massively changing the outcome at the same time.”

And all eyes are now on a famous series win in Sydney to add the finishing touch to a dream season.

“We definitely want to win the series, but we’ve probably got 10 games now between this tour and when we go into our warm-up to the World Cup,” Schmidt said.

“So, the thing that we want to believe about our squad is that there’s less and less between players and, so, selection is a contest every time.

“And as a result, we’ll look back on what guys did well tonight and we’ll see how guys travel. On Tuesday, we’ll have a better idea about some of those guys who took knocks and that will allow us to make a few decisions further along.”

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