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'Joe is an excellent coach and we have full belief in him' - Sexton

The Ireland head coach has always had his critics.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS had critics for most of his Ireland reign, despite the successes, and some of them likely felt a touch of schadenfreude as they watched Japan’s 19-12 success in Shizuoka on Saturday.

The Ireland head coach has been criticised in some quarters for his team’s style of play and his selection decisions, with some unconvinced by Ireland’s excellent record on the pitch.

Schmidt’s win rate of 73% is better than next best Eddie O’Sullivan’s 64%, but a 2015 quarter-final exit – albeit with many key players missing – and now this latest World Cup setback provide ammunition on the other side of the ledger.

joe-schmidt-and-johnny-sexton Schmidt with Johnny Sexton before the Japan game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt, like every human being, is not faultless. In the wake of Saturday’s shock defeat, it seems likely that he will have regrets about certain aspects of his team’s tactical approach, but his players are taking responsibility onto their shoulders.

Out-half Johnny Sexton, who watched the game from the sideline, has come out with a strong defence of his head coach’s ability and his game plan for the Japan clash.

“Joe is an excellent coach and we have full belief in him,” said Sexton at Ireland’s team hotel in Kobe yesterday.

“His record is the best of an Ireland coach by a country mile and what he has done for us as a team over the last six or seven years, and for me 10 years, I don’t have to go and keep talking about it – that’s there.

“Sometimes people want to maybe turn it whatever way they want.

“He’ll do what he always does, he’ll have a plan for this week and ultimately he had a great plan for the Japan game and we just didn’t execute it well enough. That’s the bottom line. 

“Players will always take responsibility because the times that we’ve done the game plan to the best of our ability, we’ve won I think every time.

“We’ve often said we go out with the game plan and it’s how well we can execute it that will decide the result.”

There is no doubt that Schmidt will be feeling the pressure this week, with the most severe of it coming from himself.

joe-schmidt Schmidt will put him under pressure to deliver. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Ireland boss will be working feverishly to ensure his team can right the wrongs, even if a big win against Russia on Thursday will understandably do little to encourage the doubters.

From Sexton’s point of view, there will always be people looking to criticise this Ireland team, but he said those people are not important to Schmidt’s squad.

“At one stage we won 23 out of 26 games and we had lots of doubters so you’re always going to have doubters in this game,” said Sexton.

“Ultimately, you want to do everyone proud. You want to make the people of Ireland proud, you want to make your family watching at home proud and, ultimately, the guys that you’re closest to are your team-mates and they’re the guys you have to look at, at the end of the day.

“The guys gave it everything [against Japan], no one can deny that and no one can point the finger and say there wasn’t a lack of effort. It was wholehearted and if we flip those margins and those small errors and mistakes that we spoke about this morning, then the game can be very different.

“Even at the end, we were one metre out from their line and we scored against Scotland in those situations in the first half, three times out of three probably.

“We didn’t take the one against Japan, so it’s small things and we’ll fix them up.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Kobe

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