Happy Man

Schmidt hails players' character on 'one of the proudest days' for Ireland

The Kiwi head coach was understandably proud of his squad’s effort in victory.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS hailed the character of his Ireland players after they squeezed out a 27-24 win against the Wallabies in Dublin to finish November with three wins out of four games.

Joe Schmidt Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland lost Sean O’Brien to injury before the game had even started, with Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne all forced off before the second half of this evening’s contest.

The backline injuries meant replacement scrum-half Kieran Marmion played the entire second 40 minutes on the right wing, while Joey Carbery won his third cap at fullback and Keith Earls was shifted to outside centre.

The reshuffle saw the Wallabies bring renewed attacking threat in the second half to edge 24-20 in front, having trailed 17-0 at one point in the first half, but Ireland manufactured a brilliant try for Earls to seal their victory.

It certainly, for me, would be one of the proudest days that I’ve been on the periphery of the team that have shown immense character,” said Schmidt post-match.

“Kieran Marmion on the wing… His impact tackle on David Pocock to dislodge the ball forward was phenomenal.

“I think Simon Zebo said it was like the crèche out here. He was the old guy looking after the kids running around. I think it’s probably reflective of how much control he has as a dad, because the kids were all over the place!

“I thought Joey Carbery did a great job. Garry Ringrose again stepped up. And it wasn’t perfect but you probably can’t expect perfection when those young guys step up or attempt to.

Joe Schmidt Colm O'Neill / INPHO Colm O'Neill / INPHO / INPHO

“I think we managed to get the edge because the boys up front did a great job. I thought the front row, obviously Besty playing his 100th cap, it’s incredibly special for him but I think it was probably made more special by the occasion.

“Tadhg Furlong continues to grow into the [tighthead] position. Jack McGrath was again really strong. I thought the front row that came off the bench were good again. Pete O’Mahony, it was great to see him out there.

“You lose a player short of the game, like Sean O’Brien and his replacement gets man of the match. It’s exactly what you’re looking for in the squad. Someone who can step up and Josh van der Flier continues to do it.”

Schmidt confirmed that O’Brien had a tight hip flexor and said it was not a serious issue. Indeed, the Ireland coach expects O’Brien to make a return to playing for Leinster next week or the week after.

Andrew Trimble was forced off with an ankle injury that needs to be assessed fully by the Ireland medical team.

Rob Kearney appeared to sustain another head injury a week after doing the same against the All Blacks, but Schmidt said his removal after 11 minutes was precautionary.

“I don’t actually have that information, I haven’t had a chance. Rob is absolutely fine, so I don’t know what happened there. I think he might have been taken off as a precaution, because he obviously had suffered a concussion last week.

Joe Schmidt Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“While he had passed all the steps along the way, they just didn’t want to take a chance now. He’s absolutely fine at the moment and I haven’t really had a chance to chat to the medical team.

“The one thing that they know is we’ll defer to the least risky option, particularly around head injury. I’ve no problem with Rob coming off, and we had a ready-made replacement with Simon having played a lot at fullback for us.

He just didn’t realise that he was going to be required to shift to the wing then, and Joey to fullback, and Kieran to the wing.”

As for Payne, Schmidt said the outside centre sustained a rib injury, having struggled with a dead leg in the build-up to the game.

“He was actually ok, but we had a number of pretty sore guys from the week before,” said Schmidt. “He got hit by Sam Whitelock on the front of his leg at one stage, he had a dead leg, he had a pretty sore all-round body.

“As a result, he was middling coming into the game, but he’s an important voice for us, so he worked his way through the first half. He got a decent whack in the ribs at one stage, which is a totally new injury, but it didn’t really help his sense of wellbeing.”

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