‘Ruthless’ Joe Schmidt the key to victory, says Rory Best

‘If you don’t toe the line and you don’t come up to his fairly tight standards then he finds someone else that will’

 

Joe Schmidt’s “ruthless” selection policy has forced Ireland to shed mental weaknesses that were costing victories, according to Rory Best.

Hooker Best admitted Ireland may well have failed to close out Saturday’s 26-23 victory over Australia in previous campaigns. The Ulster frontrower conceded Ireland suffered “mental switch-offs” in a 32-15 defeat to Australia and the last-gasp 24-22 All Blacks loss in November 2013.

Schmidt delayed medical treatment to guide Ireland to their first autumn Test series clean sweep for eight years on Saturday, before being rushed to hospital to have his appendix removed.

“The pleasing thing is that compared to where we were 12 months ago is that mentally, we stayed in,” said Best. “If you look at it 12 months ago we went mistake after mistake, mental switch-offs if you like, but this time round in a similar position, we didn’t.

“But this year we stuck to our system, we came off the line, we hit and stuck, and we really put pressure on Australia.

“Ultimately they were the ones under pressure at the end of the match because they were the ones who had to get points in some shape or form. We put pressure on them, everyone stuck to their job and the big thing for us is that no one threw in the towel mentally.

“There are a lot of great coaches out there, but Joe is certainly one of the best I’ve worked with.

“He just expects a high level from you: and if you don’t toe the line and you don’t come up to his fairly tight standards then he finds someone else that will.

“It’s ruthless, but that’s where you want to be. This is a ruthless level we’re playing at: we’re playing the best teams in the world, the best players in the world.

“You go back to 12 months ago, you make one small error and you lose a game.

“On Saturday we didn’t and that is ingrained in us now that you stick to the system.

“You trust the guy to your right and the guy to your left, and ultimately we have systems and protocols in place that can win you games in tight situations.”

Former Leinster boss Schmidt gritted his teeth through suspected appendicitis to stay on hand and direct operations against Australia, before heading off for medical tests at full-time.

Doctors at the Aviva Stadium sent Schmidt to Dublin’s St Vincent’s Hospital, where his condition was confirmed and he underwent surgery to have his appendix removed.

The ex-Clermont coach was recuperating on Sunday following the successful operation, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed.

Ireland cemented their status as the number-three side in the world rankings on Saturday, backing up their 29-15 South Africa victory with another impressive result. Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe claimed the tries for the hosts, with Johnny Sexton slotting 16 points from the tee.

Australia outscored the home side three tries to two, with Nick Phipps claiming a brace and Bernard Foley also crossing.

The resolve of Schmidt’s men mirrored the tenacity of the boss himself however, as Ireland fended off wave after wave of late attacks.

Centre Robbie Henshaw admitted he “didn’t notice” Schmidt was unwell in the build-up to Saturday’s autumn-closing Test.

“Joe is an amazing coach and his attention to detail, as mentioned before, is unbelievable,” said Henshaw.

“He gets you in the frame of mind where you have to know everything inside out. “It’s paying off, his work. He spots weaknesses in teams or where there is space in between teams. “He expects us to rise to the occasion.

“We knew during the week it was going to be a physical game and that they were going to be ramped up.

“We knew ourselves that we had to get one back on them from last year and we did that, thankfully. He didn’t make so much of being unwell at all. I didn’t notice, he seemed pretty normal to me.”

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