In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

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In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by BuckRogers » Thu Oct 24, 2019 12:26 pm

Long time gone but thought I'd make a reappearance after some of the absolute muck I have seen written by some of our not so esteemed southern journalist's, Ruadri O'''Connor and the absolute spanner who writes for in particular.

I'd start by saying yes it was an incredibly disappointing RWC from Ireland and, if truth be told, something that has been in the offing since the 6N this year when we were lacklustre at best and continued that way for the next six months to now. There is no doubt it's been a bitterly disappointing end to Schmidt and indeed Rory's era but there is a severe lack of context being employed by many or at the very least some serious amnesia involved from where exactly Schmidt picked us up vis a vis he left us off.

In 6 seasons he won One Slam and two Six Nations titles, never mind a first series win in Australia, beating the AB's twice and a variety of other consistently excellent achievements. Whatever about the RWC he's left a tough enough act to follow and if Farrell delivers similar in his incoming tenure I for one will be more than happy.

As I said above the RWC was disappointing but then so have every other one we have been involved in since time began, ok well World Cup's know what I mean. I see a lot of, quite frankly, ballsocks being written about wholesale changes, buidling for 2023 etc etc which I find incredulous.

Four teams have won the RWC in its entire history-NZ, Australia, South Africa and England. It's not an easy tournament to win and you need a combination of excellent strength in depth combined with some good fortune along the way. Neither of which Ireland have traditionally enjoyed. I would also place significantly higher value on 3 x 6Nations titles than a RWC semi or even Final appearance.

The notion that good players become bad overnight is also farcical as is the notion that wholesale changes are required.

Schmidt owes nobody an effing thing, he has brought Ireland to a level they have never been alls the while managng serious family issues in the background, namely the health of his young son.

Strangely enough i think in the last few days the interview's he and others have given illustrate they have an idea what went wrong. He was too risk-averse at the end, the RWC has become Irish Rugby's bete-noir, it's a serious monkey on our backs and I read that he used 2019 6N to build toward that. Alas he went into his shell a bit and stuck with the tried and tested which if there was one thing he's been a bit guilty off is trusting players he's worked with that are not in form but all coaches can fall into that trap. I have no doubt lessons will have been learned.

With regards to where we go from here I hope we do embrace a slightly more attacking approach but ultimately I don't care how we win. Gatland's Wales are not pretty but you can't argue with the results and I imagine the people currenty crying about turgid one out rugby would be singing the praises of miserly efficiency if we had just bored the AB's into submission.

I also think there needs to be less emphasis placed on how people train than how they actually can play the game. Dave Kearney for example and I would also say Luke McGrath have been two serious beneificiaries of the 'great trainer' rewards. Form needs to count and lessons learned that RWC is too short a tournament to bring players back up to speed-Earls, Stockdale, Henshaw to name just a few were either brought in injured or in a rut of form. Conway and Larmour almost definitely should have started that AB's match based on performances since the warm ups. Up front the same can be said-Healy and Henderson did not have vintage tournaments and benching them earlier might have been the kick up the Brennan they needed.

One last thing that I did wonder was that did the conditioning guys get it badly wrong? We looked underpowered and jaded and I thought back to something i heard from James Haskell about the England teams 2015. Basically such a value was put on fitness and S&C that their skills went to sh1t because when it came to skills sessions they were too tired to do them. Ireland's skills have never, IMO, looked so poor and I have never seen Healy or Henderson so physically ineffective?

In terms of others Ireland might look to surely Phil Morrow (Ulster man) at Sarries could do a job within Irish Rugby? Seeing what he has done with Sarries physicality would make him worth his weight in gold in my humblest opinion.

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Cockatrice » Thu Oct 24, 2019 6:21 pm

Unless mistaken I hear little or nothing of the Ozzie head honcho who if not mistaken set the minimum goals for Ireland this year as winning a 6N and getting to the RWC SF. In other words Ireland failed to reach their stated goals and yet he gets a 300 yeAr contract extension..
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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Hapax Legomenon » Thu Oct 24, 2019 7:05 pm

That dipshit is beyond reproach.
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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by againstthehead » Thu Oct 24, 2019 9:45 pm

Some good points. Physically and mentally the team looked jaded at best.

Players couldnt even execute the most basic of gameplan. Kicking game was appalling. Lost all the collisions. Worst thing for me is turnover ball. Often end up kicking it away. Turnover ball is so precious and hard to come by and ireland looked bewildered. Just clueless when playing off the cuff unless its 1 out runners close to the line.

Joe was been fantastic overall but the players really let him down i think. He must be fuming inside.
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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Hapax Legomenon » Thu Oct 24, 2019 11:16 pm

Or maybe his conservative nature took over and he picked out of form players on the basis of performances 12 or 24 months ago.
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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Bart S » Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:32 pm

Anything which focusses on the quarter final exit and scale of the defeat misses the point. If you look at Ireland’s 2019 record, never mind world cup QF exit history then you could see it coming. This stuff being spouted about being too obsessed about breaking the QF hoodoo is bewildering. Was that at the forefront of ireland’s minds when getting smashed at the Aviva by England or getting pumped by Wales at the end of the 6 nations? In each if those 2 games Ireland started with 12 of the 15 who started against NZ, with suspension and injuries the only reason for changes. So you can hardly say we experimented with personnel and certainly not in playing style either for the 6nations. These were big warning signs about what was to come.

Getting thumped by england in a warm up game (because we “over-trained”) and then losing to Japan (just a poor 60 mins according to Sexton pre All Blacks) were just further confirmations. I really do wonder what some people were smoking when they thought that the halfbacks would magically just return to their 2017/2018 form, when neither had played at that level for a year, despite numerous games for both club(s) and country. If BOD hadn’t retired he would still be getting picked for ireland because of what he did in the early 2000’s. Sexton may still be the best 10 available (i would argue that there are plenty of good replacements for murray right now) but he is on the wane and nowhere near the likes of Farrell or Biggar these days.

Even if Ireland were good, a QF exit may have happened courtesy of the draw, with their potential opponents being arguably the 2 best teams in the world. However, ireland have only themselves to blame for getting the harder route as a result of the japan defeat and the short turnaround time hit them because they could not afford to rest players for the Samoa game given the pool situation arising from the japan defeat. Also, we were hanging on against japan, desperate for a losing bp, having not scored for around 60minutes. This was not an unlucky defeat decided by the bounce of the ball. They were the better team and deserved to win the pool.

As for Joe, his record for Ireland has been very good and he will be rightly lauded for that, although Irish rugby was generally a poor cousin until this millenium, with the odd triple crown being something to savour. EOS, Kidney and Joe have all achieved that and more. Yet for all Joe’s achievements, there is another Celtic coach who has delivered 3 grand slams and 2 world cup semi finals. Both he and Eddie Jones have shown they are willing to drop big name players, something which Schmidt always seemed reluctant to do.

He still seems utterly convinced by his methods and selections, as he really seems to struggle to think of anything he may have got wrong or do differently. Too many people seem to get the nod because they have trained well which presumably means executing a very rigid gameplan, rather than what they can do on the pitch to turn a game around.

So all in all he deserves a lot of credit for his achievements, but whilst no-one in irish rugby circles would ever admit it, i would question whether he has done a better job than Gatland has at Wales. This year has been a failure in every way - at least in 2007 we came within a whisker of a slam or a 6nations title before the rwc debacle. The 2011 and 2015 were going well until 2 disappointing (and unexpected) qf defeats, whereas this one was littered with disappointment along the way.

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by for dog and ulcer » Sat Oct 26, 2019 10:26 am

Excellent post from BartS and one where I agree with almost every word.

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Vanhelsing » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:55 am

Ireland just not good enough on the big stage, they were a big let down.No matter how well we blow the team up they let us down.....Truth be told I cant see any improvement in the next few years in the 6 nations

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Frank » Sun Oct 27, 2019 5:51 pm

Ireland have got to understand how world cup cycles work as the other sides do.
Schmidt failed not once but twice at world cups and that's not coincidence.

Eddie Jones after he won the slam in his first year rightly predicted a 3rd year slump for England as part of the cycle.
He had been a part of successful sides in 3 previous world cups and understands the building process.

Clive Woodward similarly put more emphasis on the autumn internationals and regularly beating the SH sides rather than the 6n teams knowing his side could beat anyone going into the world cup in 2003.
Gatland too understands the process and his sides always performed at world cups.

The SH sides use the championship as a build up towards the world cup and can swallow losses to evolve their squads and tactics.
The Kiwis have even perfected the art of peaking during the tournament going through the gears according to the challenge as England have done this time and arguably SA.

Ireland remain clueless because they don't understand any of this.
Buck raises the importance of winning championships and slams but they matter more to Ireland because they never historically have won them.
They get carried away by this and the world cup as a consequence becomes an after thought.
In fact it could be argued that both their recent slams were in years when other sides were more focused on squad building for the world cup 2 years out.
I remember people going mad about Ireland winning triple crowns which was essentially winning 3 out of 5 games.
Shows they are not used to winning!

Doesn't help jettisoning young developed talent either sorry but had to say it.

In summary Schmidt was a great coach but it's hard and sad to think this was also the same guy who created the legacy at Leinster who played with some of the most exhilarating style witnessed to the man leaving an empire in ruins..
The Farrell appointment with no world cup success on his cv could well fall into the same trap.

Interesting to note from Ireland's final grand slam game v England in 2018 their centres and back row (barring Leavy), have been retained whereas England completely replaced their personnel to a man.
In fact 4 of the 5 were subsequently jettisoned entirely from their squad.
Jones had identified the importance of these 2 areas to have a centre pairing working in tandem and a balanced back row which England haven't had since 2003.
He certainly has now!
In fact he ditched 9 of the 23 man squad from that day for the world cup whilst Schmidt ditched 4 ironically who he should have kept in Toner, Mcgrath Murphy and Marmion none of whom started.
Gatland ditched Mike Phillips on 99 caps proving there's no room for sentiment in the pro game.

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Bart S » Mon Oct 28, 2019 12:48 am

Just listening to the Left Wing podcast with Luke Fitzgerald. (Not sure why). First 3 players named for criticism were Stockdale, Henderson and Best.

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Shan » Mon Oct 28, 2019 1:26 am

Yer own error Bart. Ya should know by now that listening to Fitz can't do any good.
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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by skiboo » Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:38 am

A very disappointing World Cup but why the surprise considering the results from the 6 nations and the autumn internationals when it was already apparent the team was on the on the wane and the tactics fully understood by the opposition.
Joe was getting very conservative with no plan b. Stick to the plan or get dropped, show an ability to play what is in front of you drilled out but expected to be in place after we got through phase 3 or on front foot ball. Off load at your peril.
There were the untouchables picked on past performances not form.
Press hype. While I believe Ireland as a team may have managed to subdue this there are players who were in the squad off the back of a superstar persona pushed by the media. For me Carberry is a classic.For instance i doubt if P J would have been thrown to the wolves so quickly except there was a superstar waiting to be discovered. Not withstanding that what has he really achieved he was brought to the world cup injured and has proven to be like Ringrose fragile and lightweight.
Ireland physically looked overtrained and certainly had peaked 18 months previously.
Roll on 2023 with all that it brings including England perhaps as World Cup champions and the press that goes with it aaaaaah.

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Columbo » Mon Oct 28, 2019 12:47 pm

I have to say I agree with Bart, I remember being bemused after the 6 nations at the reflexive defence of Schmidt when it seemed pretty obvious that such a disastrous campaign was more than just a bump in the road - as I recall the idea was floated in some circles that Ireland had deliberately thrown the 6 nations, or at least weren't bothered by the losses, in order to keep the powder dry for the world cup :roll:

I think Schmidt did a great job initially - he was a massive step up technically from Kidney who was a bit of a bluffer IMO, and there was strong continuity given most of the squad were the Leinster guys he knew well, and the detail and prep that he is famous for definitely got Ireland into a good place for a time. But I have to say some things made me a bit uneasy - first of all even in 2018 which was his high point, we were winning, but in an incredibly inefficient way. We did 3 things - the first and most important was hog possession and go through huge numbers of phases, secondly loads of contestable kicks from half-backs, and thirdly hit teams with a couple of nice strike moves a match - the common theme is that all three relied on players basically following a very precise gameplan like robots, with not much scope for them to think for themselves. And the result was that we would quite often have 60% possession of which a third was in the opponents 22 - but we'd only win by 5 points! (Give NZ that amount of possession and territory and they'll put 40 points on a team). It also meant that we very nearly lost matches we should have won comfortably - getting out of jail against France in 2018 was a good example. And it wasn't very pleasant to watch.

The second problem I had was that if punters like me sitting on a couch can work out how pretty much how Ireland are going to play, then surely the best professional coaches around the world will too, and will adapt accordingly - giving rise to the question, how will Ireland / Schmidt react? And the answer we have seen in 2019 is - keep trying to do the same thing over and over... I remember during the horror shows against England and Wales in teh 6N, when the camera cut to Schmidt, thinking he just looks like he doesn't have a clue what to do.. The problem with having a massively structured and rigid gameplan is that if for whatever reason it stops working, you're screwed..

And the third problem was some of his selections - insisting on Murray and Sexton during the 6 nations being a prime example, when they were playing like dogs. I listened to the 42 podcast last week, very good listen I have to say, they had Andy Dunne on who apparently has been a bit of a Schmidt sceptic for a while (and has copped flak for it!) and he made the point that Ireland seems to be the only country where a small number of players become elevated in the public consciousness to the point of indespensibility. The 4 examples he gave were Murray, Sexton, POM and Best - he was saying that England can drop Ford, one of their best players in the WC, for a QF and it's accepted as just a rugby decision, and Wales lost Anscombe who was so important in the 6N, and bring back Biggar, again with no massive outcry - but the idea of Ireland dropping Sexton or Murray there would almost be a national enquiry convened. I think this is a long time problem with Irish rugby, a sort of 'big man' theory whereby success depends on identifying a small number of 'key guys' and then backing them to the hilt regardless of form or anything else..

Dunne was interesting about the mood in the camp - he reckons it was grim, after a while all of the attention to detail becomes overwhelming, he was talking of guys trying to avoid bumping into Schmidt in the hotel because they were scared of being asked something that they wouldn't know the answer to off the top of their heads. And also a bit weirdly cultish, all the players queuing up in interviews to go on about how Joe's attention to detail was amazing etc etc, he mentioned Farrell saying he loves playing with Sexton and under Schmidt, because the pair of them know what's going to happen in 10 minutes time - as he said, this is just obvious bunkum, nobody knows that, but everyone at the press conference nodding along

Anyway, big question now is can Farrell fix it? Crazy IMO to offer long-term extensions in the run-up to a WC (Ireland don't learn their lessons do they..) and the truth is his defence didn't exactly fire. I'm not convinced he's the answer, but who knows. Mike Catt is an intriguing hire, maybe he can provide a spark. The 6 nations will be interesting.. more thing

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by Dublin4 » Mon Oct 28, 2019 4:01 pm

Eddie Jones and England sniffed out how to beat Ireland and Joe in the first 6N game last February. Basically, play massively aggressive rugby to take away possession from Ireland. Wales, using their offensive defence, did the same in Cardiff. Saracens v Leinster in the H Cup final was a surrogate version.

But there was more to it than this. Ireland had peaked physically in 2018 and just were not the same force in 2019. Dan Leavy had a one year spell at the top before his demise in the H Cup quarter final. He had missed the 6N as well, but in 2018 he was simply indispensable. With SOB effectively gone since the Lions in 2017, Ireland went from riches to rags in the back row. The flair that Joe required from his players in his Leinster days deserted them in 2019.

Joe is gone now and we will feel the disappointment of the RWC for a long time. But the cycle starts all over again in only 3 months. My wish is that the IRFU tells the sponsors to back off and not relentlessly chase success in the 6N this year. Let's give Farrell time to develop new players and combinations. I think Kieran Marmion should have been brought to Japan. I'd like to see him get a chance. Haley and Addison deserve a look. A few of the Under 20s who won their six nations should be involved. The Ulster Sexton is somebody who might be fast tracked too.

The coming Heineken Cup has the four provinces. Let's look at what it turns up.

Finally, thank you Joe for many incredible achievements and memories to cherish. You have left some great structures in place.

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Re: In Defence of Schmidt, Ireland's RWC and where to now?

Post by GLENN CORNICK » Mon Oct 28, 2019 7:50 pm

Columbo's penultimate paragraph is fascinating.

Just last week i was speaking to a very experienced coach who made those very points.

I'm not saying JS doesn't not have qualities but the notion of real life immediately conforming to pre-conceived theory and plans is bunkum.
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