Schmidt will be 'bedraggled' after making final World Cup squad calls

The Ireland boss is set to submit his final 31-man group to World Rugby today.

A VERY WELL-read man, Joe Schmidt brings up author Nassim Nicholas Taleb when he’s explaining just how tricky picking a World Cup squad is.

Taleb is a former trader and risk analyst who wrote the hugely influential book The Black Swan, which discusses the major impact of unpredictable events in life and how humans often produce overly simplistic explanations for those events after the fact.

In rugby terms, Schmidt acknowledges, anything can happen at a World Cup and best-laid plans can suddenly seem foolish.

“Randomness can affect outcomes and really the only certain way to know if you’ve made the right decisions is at the end of the tournament when you look back,” said Schmidt yesterday as he faced into his final selection meetings to decide on his 31-player squad.

joe-schmidt-ahead-of-the-game Schmidt has been finalising his World Cup squad since Saturday night. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Reflecting on 2015, Schmidt recalls how Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss and Mike McCarthy joined the Ireland squad in Cardiff, coming from Leinster’s Pro12 trip to face Scarlets after Ireland had been decimated by injuries to important players like Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton.

With Ireland “much further away” from home this time around – over 9,500km away from Dublin – Schmidt knows how important the balance of his travelling squad for Japan is.

“It’s a nightmare,” said the Ireland boss.

By now, his players have been delivered the good and bad news, with Schmidt due to submit his 31-man squad to World Rugby today.

He is, however, not set to name the group publicly until Sunday, after the final warm-up game against Wales in Dublin, and will hope news of his decisions doesn’t filter out.

“One of the difficulties for us is when guys [in the media] release teams or guys let people know. It would be a hell of a disappointment for players to find out via the media so that’s one of the considerations for me – to make sure I get to them first and they know first-hand from me who’s selected and, if they’ve missed out, why we’ve selected someone in front of them,” said Schmidt.

The Ireland head coach is likely to keep an extra two or three players in training with his 31-man group before they depart for Japan, and he underlined that late injury call-ups mean even those who aren’t named need to stay “dialled in.”

Schmidt said on Saturday that it was likely he and his coaches would rapidly agree on around 25 of the travelling party, but those final six selections would be the most difficult – and perhaps most important as they provide injury cover and rotation possibilities.

“Sometimes people might say ‘I can’t believe he hasn’t picked this guy’ as opposed to someone else.

“But he might have a left foot or a different persona on the pitch or a different set of skills that we need to bring other people into the game and sometimes those things can be overlooked a little bit. It’s hard to put all that balance together.”

jacob-stockdale-and-bundee-aki Ireland are coming off a 22-17 win in Cardiff. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Schmidt will have pored over Saturday’s win against Wales in Cardiff in extreme detail for any final clues and it’s unlikely he has slept very much in the past 36 hours as he made his final decisions.

Delivering the bad news to the unlucky players is the worst part of the job for Schmidt, and only adds to what has been a very difficult period for the head coach, who recently had to return home to New Zealand due to a family bereavement.

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It means he’s barely even given thought to the fact that this Saturday is his final game as Ireland head coach in Dublin.

“To be honest, I won’t be too emotional,” said Schmidt. “I’ll be bedraggled after making those phone calls and a little bit dazed and confused probably.

“It’s been a really tough three or four weeks for me, emotionally, so it puts things into perspective.”

But Schmidt does go on to say he will miss much about his job when he leaves the role after the World Cup to make way for Andy Farrell.

“I enjoy coaching, that’s the bit I love,” said Schmidt. “I get out on the pitch, I can really enjoy dialling in and trying to help players and keep them under pressure and that’s the bit that almost… you know, matchdays, it’s a pressure cooker, to be honest.

“I won’t miss matchdays, except there have been some pretty special matches that have been unbelievable and I’ll miss those precious moments post-match and just before the end of the match when you know you’ve actually tied something up that’s pretty special.

“I’ll miss the people I’ve worked with, massively. Sometimes we get criticised because we might not be the flashiest crew in town but as far as applying themselves and working hard and being good men, I really enjoy the people I work with.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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