Joe Schmidt weighs up Ireland’s gains against Italian losses
‘I personally counted 14 Italy injuries before the match. We saw that as an opportunity’
Nine tries in this 58-15 victory scatters the wolves far from Joe Schmidt’s door. But, we can be sure, the Ireland coach knows exactly what is being said about him.
“I know people question decisions I might make or the way we might play but I guarantee I question it more,” he admitted. “I am always trying to think how we can best utilise the resources we have. How we can best put pressure on the opponents we have. Also how we keep things fresh, to challenge players.”
Rory Best is handed an easy opener where he says he’s pleased to not be sitting here trying to justify another brave defeat. The changing room is a happy place the captain tells us. A win in the Six Nations is new to several young players.
“It’s an unbelievable championship to play in if you get a win,” says Best.
Schmidt commiserates with Italy losing a heap of players – including both locks – to injury early on.
“That gave us space to play and our players revelled in it. We got scores against France and England that were not awarded so it’s good to get them today,” went Schmidt of the games that got away.
“To finally release the pressure valve is nice but had Italy stayed intact we know how tough the arm wrestles are with them.
“I have sympathy for Jacques Brunel. I’ve known him for a long time from his time as Perpignan coach, when he has beaten me a lot, and he is an astute strategist. I personally counted 14 Italy injuries before the match. We saw that as an opportunity.”
The Italian platitudes go on as Schmidt overloads us with statistics from Italy versus Scotland game – thereby switching the focus to next Saturday’s visitors.
Schmidt, genial as ever, quips about his old partner at Bay of Plenty and Clermont Auvergne Vern Cotter, who will moan about only having a six-day turn around as Scotland play France on Sunday.
He talks about the jersey and how players want to keep it and others want it back. We think he means Kearney versus Simon Zebo at fullback.
No guarantees is this life.
“I don’t want to intimidate players or annoy them by speaking to them all the time,” he says about how he lets the senior group self-police.
A happy camp so. A sterile press conference being the unfortunate result. There’s been a good few of them this past week.
Brunel and Sergio Parisse were in earlier. Fairly grim stuff.
“Ireland was above us physically,” said Brunel, who will be succeeded by Conor O’Shea next season. “We were unable to stop them today. Right from the start of the match.
“The positive is even when we were down in the score we kept the will to keep competing.”
Parisse’s face in etched in pain and disgust.
“My team need to learn from matches like today,” was the Italy captain’s interminable mantra. “Everyone was at fault. Everybody must give more.I didn’t expect such a bad second half. You know me well by now: I hate losing. I want to keep positive.”
It ends with a nod to the Six Nations table and whether Italy deserve to be automatically allowed into the championship?
“It’s a question that comes when you lose matches like that. But when you see in the past, even against Ireland a couple of years ago, I think Italy deserve to play in this tournament.”
Mainly because of him.