Joe Schmidt has more questions than answers after Australia defeat
Ireland face a daunting task with New Zealand rated the best team in the world
One of the most difficult things for Ireland on Saturday was to be seen not to be trying to make excuses. Joe Schmidt will always have an explanation. Analyse, see what his team did that he told them not to do, point out the stress fractures and the areas Australia exploited. No excuses but many reasons why.
Paul O’Connell thought the problems were easily fixable. In that view he is, perhaps looking for a leap of faith from Irish fans. More intensity, better accuracy, stronger set pieces, more intelligent kicking, a better defensive line. Schmidt spoke of accumulations, things compounding each other and ultimately a chasing game that Ireland were doomed to never achieving.
As a new coach to the Ireland team what could he have learned? Aside from the loneliness of sitting at a top table with his captain O’Connell and explaining what in his own head he may have believed was an unlikelihood two hours previously.
“I learned that there is . . . it is not players collectively. It is individual players who have got things to be learned,” said Schmidt. “I think when Quade Cooper danced through, there was some things to be learned there. We were really well matched up but you know you can’t account for a guy who is a little bit young and still learning there and I think you can see that from the video.”
Schmidt was not trying to drop Luke Marshall in it and could have looked at Irish defensive running for Australia’s try, maybe have gone through each player picking at something that didn’t go right.
‘One shot at it’
“The worst thing about it is he’s learning from it in the Test arena where everything counts, where it’s a final and you only get one shot at it and you have to deliver it,” added the Ireland coach.
“So it’s tough but you learn things about individual players and then collectively, really the structure was pretty simple that we’re trying to put in place. But if you don’t get the initial phase right, then you get the continuity in behind it and then the whole thing becomes that much more difficult to make the effort.”
There was a little coaching babble in Schmidt’s reading of it. As he pointed out at least once on Saturday, the players are more disappointed about what happened than any punter who paid to see the match.
But in his capacity to download material and examine the data that led to a win for Australia, perhaps some redemption exists. Johnny Sexton’s injury will present a problem but Schmidt gives the impression that O’Connell’s view may be accurate and that the solution is a myriad of adjustments.