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Schmidt working to get Ireland comfortable amid distractions

The head coach also hit back at a comparison made between this Championship and the 2007 World Cup.

CONTINUITY AND COHESION remained the words on the lips of Joe Schmidt and the nebulous target his team have to reach for as they enter the penultimate week of the Six Nations Championship.

Ironically enough though, as the head coach attempted to provide a little detail on his efforts to entice some smooth-flowing play from his team – no matter what distractions pop up – he was put off his own rhythm as the unfamiliar press conference setting in the impressive Queen’s University facility resulted in staccato stream of late arrivals.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt during the session in Queen's. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The open training session against the U20s was high in tempo and not without its big impacts. And a feature of the senior squad’s preparation was the sudden disappearance of a player from the attacking shape, called off to run down the sideline to join another group behind the try-line.

“Today you couldn’t ask for better training conditions,” said Schmidt after joking that Vitamin D was a big positive of the days in camp.

“We got a bit of work done insofar as trying to get a little bit more of that continuity, fluidity, that cohesion that we need.

“We tried to mix guys up and say,” and while Schmidt moved to his explanation the sliding door slid this way and that as if to give some small sedate sense of the challenge set for the players.

“This guy gets hurt or this guy gets hurt or you take a knee, you’re out of this play and see how we manage’. Because in the end it’s a little bit (like) what has happened in recent times. We’ve had a lot of early-in-the-match injuries and then we’ve struggled to really keep our continuity.

Josh van der Flier with fans Van der Flier meeting fans after training. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I think it’s almost been a bit of a distraction for us. So we’re creating the distraction in training to try to be a little bit more comfortable with it should it happen in a game.”

Then the last roll of the door came, prompting a ‘just keep it closed… they’re either in or out’ from the coach.

For Sean Cronin, the head coach insists the door is very much still open, however.

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The hooker was culpable of three overthrown line-outs before Ireland went in trailing Italy at half-time in Rome. But while the Leinster star was not involved in Ireland training yesterday, Schmidt says the explosive Limerick man must not be written off.

“You’re never going to write a player off for one performance that didn’t go his way.

“And the way it can affect confidence… right, you’ve got this first start (in the Six Nations) and you’re a little bit anxious but you’re really excited about this opportunity, and then the first thing doesn’t go right.

“Then you get a little bit more anxious, maybe, and I think that exacerbated the whole problem for Sean.

We know that he’s a really good player. We know that he’s got acceleration that most hookers don’t have. We know that he can throw.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hooker who hasn’t had an off-day throwing at some stage but do they get written off because of it? I think you’d be crazy to do that after the good work that he has done. And I know having gone back through the line-outs they’re not all down to the throw. Some of it is the call or the pre-call, some of it is the movement, some of it is the quality of the lift. So it’s that whole blend that we need to put together and make sure that we get as close to accurate as possible.”

Cronin’s errors, of course, are just one small part of a compounding list of errors which have stunted Ireland’s progress in this tournament. The lack of ‘fluidity’ in a stuttering attacking display against Italy is never far from Schmidt’s thoughts, but the Kiwi did take some umbrage with his former player Shane Horgan drawing a parallel between Ireland’s Championship performance and the disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign – albeit Horgan did make efforts to row back on his comparison.

Garry Ringrose Garry Ringrose in training with Jack Carty, the only 10 in action for the senior side yesterday, in support. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re probably as dismayed and keen to start changing direction. We’re still confident that we can work our way through this and deliver a couple of really good performances in the last two games of the Championship.

“You can only say in retrospect at the end of the Championship whether we achieved that or not, but at the moment that’s what we’re driven toward.

We don’t get too distracted by people making comparisons with a team (from) 12 years ago.

“It couldn’t be more irrelevant to us because, for us, some of what we try to do is very much in the moment. It is for eight or 10 days’ time (against France), it’s not looking 12 years back to see what we need to learn.

“We’ll learn a bit from what happened in Italy and then we’ll try to springboard from that into a really good performance against France.”

Liberte, Continuity, Fluidity.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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