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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 13 December, 2018

Scars of 2016 remain for Schmidt as he prepares for 'spiky and physical' All Blacks clash

Joe Schmidt will demand that his charges give as good as they get in the physical stakes.

RESPECT COMES IN many forms.

In 113 years of Test rugby history between Ireland and New Zealand there was no shortage of handshakes, back-slapping, compliments, stout-tasting and cultural acknowledgement.

However, the most respect on show from an All Black team on these shores surely came in the last meeting between the sides. A fortnight out from losing a first ever Test to Ireland, New Zealand dispensed with the usual bid to respectfully beat their hosts, instead they threw all their fury and explosive athleticism at the hosts. They used their history, legacy and standing in the game to their advantage to brazenly flout a few laws, knowing it would take a brave referee to bring out a first red card for an All Black since Colin Meads in 1967.

Malakai Fekitoa tackles Simon Zebo high Fekitoa earned a yellow card for his tackle on Simon Zebo. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland did not get the brave refereeing decisions required for Sam Cane or Malakai Fekitoa, they had Jaco Peyper.

“The were some decisions made by the referee that day that befuddled everybody. I don’t think there’s any confusion with that,” said Joe Schmidt yesterday after naming his side for what he promises will be a ‘spiky’ rematch.

New Zealand won out 9-21, a comprehensive three-try victory, but the leniency for hits on Robbie Henshaw and Simon Zebo, on top of separate early injury for Johnny Sexton and CJ Stander means there are a deep well of ‘what ifs’ about the 12-point defeat for Ireland. And although there is a fresh move from World Rugby to punish high tackles, Ireland clearly saw reason to offer early advice to this week’s referee Wayne Barnes.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt with some of his chief enforcers. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“At that stage,” said Schmidt when asked to elaborate on the ‘befuddling’ 2016 calls, “we had just had pretty clear diktat that player safety was paramount. We felt in that game felt that more could have been done to make sure that was delivered.

“Anyone watching can make their own decisions. At the time we said nothing about it because we got beaten fair and square on the day and when beaten fair and square, the last thing you’re going to do is come out and question things. You have to give respect to the team that has got the better of you.”

You can feel that you weren’t too far away and it’s irrelevant. We weren’t there, we didn’t get there, so it’s either a win, a loss or a draw and it’s definitely a loss.”

He adds: “We have admiration, frustration that it occurred, but in the context of what we had been told it was not in line with that. We’d had a few guys who did get knocked about in that game.

New Zealand All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa runs in for a try Bodies strewn on the turf as Fekitoa runs in for one of his two tries. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“If it is spiky, something that Barnesy well able to cope with. He is one of most experienced refs in international rugby. He is the ideal man to sort it out if something needs to be sorted out.

“I don’t predict there will be something that needs to be sorted out. The All Blacks want to play positively, they do play positively.

I don’t think they give up too many cards of any colour and we like to think the same, It doesn’t mean it doesn’t get spiky. It can be within the rules, spiky and physical. Same as Argentina, spiky and physical but nothing untoward.

“That is exactly what it will be like, not outside the remit of what has been set down as regards player welfare. But within that they won’t be looking after each other too well but that is the nature of the game. It is a collision sport.

“I know their boys can’t wait to get into it and our boys are the same.”

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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