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.

“I would implore the public to hang in there, that we will be working as hard as we can,” said Schmidt. “I suppose I have got a lot of time for this group of young men who will try to deliver something a bit special next week,” he added. “Again for us it will be performance related. I don’t think you can pick results. I think we just have to get some things right.

“You guys saw enough wrong there to know we have got enough on our hands – as Paul mentioned, set-piece, our kicking game, our defensive line – there is a lot of things to work on and unfortunately there is no magic fix. I would love if there is a panacea to work all ills there.

“It is going to be gradual but we will certainly be working as hard. There is something about the psyche of these guys that the more daunting it will be, the deeper they’ll dig and if people can support us we will see what we can get there and try to represent them as good as we can.”

Unbeaten this year
New Zealand, number one ranked team for four years, unbeaten this year and have the capacity to employ the afterburners when they need to find another level. Next Sunday, it maybe a question of how many. Keith Wood said 10 to 15 points. In many people’s minds, that is being kind and questions linger.

“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t allow the All Blacks, the potent weapons that they have, to mix and match what they’re doing and change points of attack and play with us being on the back foot,” said Schmidt.

“Because inevitably they’re just going to wear you back and back. And their offloading game and the speed of their game will undo us.

“So, it’s daunting. But it will be recovery and it will be hard work and it will be mentally preparing ourselves so that we can try to anticipate what’s coming. I felt we anticipated what was coming from the Australians. I just felt we were disappointing in what we were trying to deliver what we talked about.”