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Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 21 July, 2019

'Your past results don’t protect you, they don't protect you from yourself'

Ireland’s defeat to England stung nobody more than Joe Schmidt.

JOE SCHMIDT ADMITS he suffered sleepless nights in the aftermath of Ireland’s poor performance against England last week, as the head coach pored over where it went wrong for his side on the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

Schmidt spent hours analysing the footage of the 32-20 defeat at the Aviva Stadium and over-analysed the finer details of the build-up, questioning whether the team’s preparation was right, in a bid to identify why Ireland were bullied by the visitors.

“For me, it doesn’t get any easier,” he said at Carton House on Thursday.  

Joe Schmidt Schmidt during yesterday's press conference. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I was speaking to a group of coaches yesterday and they were asking me about things like that. [The defeat on Saturday] was just as tough [as any previous ones I have dealt with]. The guys I was speaking to said ‘surely your past results protect you?’ But they don’t. They don’t protect you from yourself.”

His hunger for perfection is unrelenting. A first home defeat in the Six Nations stung Schmidt more than anyone, and he will have left no stone unturned this week to ensure the same mistakes aren’t made again. No one escapes the Kiwi’s desperate search for improvement, himself included.

“Did we do enough work last week?” he wondered. “Did we get them primed the way we needed to be when we knew that brutality was coming? Did we push too hard on the side of being disciplined, trusting that officials would take care of foul play?

“Were we too clean, do we need to push the boundary more? And to be honest, I don’t think we do. I think we play a really physical game. I’m incredibly proud of the way our players play.

“They try to play within the laws and they try to commit fully to what they’re doing.

“And we were off last week and you do, you question yourself a heck of a lot. There’s not a hell of a lot of sleep that happens on a Saturday and Sunday evening, trying to decipher what’s best and what needs to happen next.”

On that note, Schmidt’s attentions have turned to Saturday’s visit to Murrayfield to face Scotland: “But one of the great things about the game is when it’s at the start of the championship, you have got to get straight on with the next game and so you’ve got somewhere to go.

“And having got somewhere to go, you’ve got to dust yourself off and immediately start to demonstrate your confidence in the group because you can’t not be confident in the group.

“What they have achieved is fantastic. People have often just talked about last year but I think going back to back in 2014 and 2015, they’ve demonstrated a real resilience had to bounce back.”

Joe Schmidt Chris Farrell starts as one of five changes. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt yesterday revealed his hand for the second assignment of Ireland’s Six Nations defence, but four of the five changes in personnel he has made for the trip to Edinburgh are enforced, Seán O’Brien’s return for Josh van der Flier the other adjustment.

“Five changes? I’m asked about having five changes, I think that’s perfect,” he says. 

Opportunity knocks this week for Rob Kearney, Chris Farrell, Quinn Roux and Jack Conan, who come in for Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Devin Toner and CJ Stander, all of whom picked up injuries last week. 

“You know it’s exactly what you may suffer later on in the year and therefore let’s invest in people now, let’s get them out there and let them demonstrate that they own the jersey and demonstrate they have the right ability to contribute.”

While bidding to avoid back-to-back Six Nations defeats for the first time since 2016, Schmidt’s only concern is seeing his side produce a much-improved performance. The result, he says, will take care of itself after that.

He continued: “To be honest, the bit I can’t control is the result. The bit that the players can control is the performance. That has been our full focus this week.

“If we get a super performance and we’re beaten by a better team because they are a bloody good team, then we’ve got to accept that. And it will give us a benchmark and extra hunger for that first-round game in Pool A [World Cup opener v Scotland].

“Whatever way it works out result-wise, we can cope and we can use it for what we’ve got to do in the future. Performance wise, we have to be better.”

Following a heartbreaking Six Nations opening defeat to England, Joe Schmidt will look to regroup against a dangerous Scotland side. This week, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to assess the damage of last weekend and look ahead to the clash in Murrayfield:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ryan Bailey

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