Joe Schmidt settling in to new role
Paul O’Connell describes new coach’s sessions as ‘enjoyable and stimulating’
New Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has said he will keep an open mind about players and he hopes to build depth in the Irish team so that that it can play at a consistent level.
Speaking in the team hotel at Carton House for the first time since taking over the Irish job from Declan Kidney, Schmidt said he was still adjusting from being a provincial coach competing in over 30 games a year to an international role where the Irish team will play perhaps only 10 matches.
“Coming from 32 games in the year to 10 games maximum - and all 10 of those international matches are finals so you pretty much pick your best team all the time,” said Schmidt.
“In the province you can have a look at players and put them into matches and they are able to earn a right to play. I’m not sure how I solve that problem but I’ve an open mind and I think players know we are really open minded about things.”
Schmidt was speaking after a brief two-day get together with more than 40 players, including some of the younger names that have been coming though during the summer. Ulster’s back five forward Iain Henderson and Connacht back Robbie Henshaw were among the less experienced. Henshaw had an opportunity to talk to and play with Brian O’Driscoll, one of his heroes when he was growing up.
“I’ve been swapping in and out (of outside centre) with him (O’Driscoll),” said Henshaw. “He’s been very helpful and he’s given me some valuable tips. But I’ll just keep my head down and try to keep my focus. But yeah, he was one of the players I looked up to when I was a kid.”
Munster lock Paul O’Connell has given his seal of approval to the new coaching team.
“Any time you work with someone new and as successful a coach as Joe Schmidt, it is always a good thing,” said former Ireland captain O’Connell, who also welcomed the chance to work with new forwards coach John Plumtree. “We’ve only had a small number of sessions with him, but they have been really enjoyable and stimulating. Joe has a tried and trusted way of running his coaching staff and running the teams he coaches, and you look at the success he has had with Leinster over the last number of years and it is hard not to trust that.
“This is our first time working with John (Plumtree), and he has a great rugby CV, having worked in so many great places, particularly Wellington and with the Sharks (in South Africa) for the last number of years.”
For now, Schmidt is looking at the Guinness Series in November where Ireland will play three test matches against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.
“It was great to see some of the younger players in the summer tour,” he said. “We hope that what they did to impress us continues. The Guinness Series is now something we’re really looking forward to.
“The weeks go very quickly and I’m just keeping sure we keep track of players. It is always a challenge to build and strengthen various positions and I hope we can build strength through the back to front. If we can build that, it will give us stability. If we can get consistency, then hopefully that will make us a much more competitive team.”