Too predictable? In what way asks Joe Schmidt
‘It was going at 100 miles an hour and then when it got into the 22s it started to chug’
Joe Schmidt says Johnny Sexton’s yellow card was crucial in the defeat at the Principality Stadium. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images
The obvious rarely appeals to Joe Schmidt. When asked, bluntly, if Ireland are too predictable in attack the instant response was to flip it over and seek examples.
“In what way?”
It seemed, to the untrained eye - which includes most journalists as well as the public - that Ireland revert, more often than say Wales or New Zealand or England or the Wallabies, to the bulldozer route when in sight of the try line, especially when chasing a game.
See the failed bid in Cardiff in 2015. See it again Friday night. Not identical but not significantly different.
Ireland, as an offensive entity, have shown signs of evolvement, certainly in victory over the All Blacks and Australia in November, but they were defending decent leads in both games so, really, Schmidt was asked to provide detail to show what seems obvious to people without his rugby intellect is not so at all.
Basically, in short, was this defeat down to supreme Welsh defending or do Ireland need more variation close to the try line?
“It’s funny you say that,” said Schmidt. “In the end you are always looking for variation. We had seven line breaks each. A lot of the stats are very, very even.
“The one that favours us is the 10-4 penalty count, the one that favours them is 22-9 result.”
There is also the small matter of the 3-nil try count. Ireland also, yet again, dominated possession (53 to 46 percent but that tilted dramatically as they owned 62 percent in the second half). Territorial dominance showed a similar reversal.
Turnovers conceded: 15 each. Tackles made: Wales 170 (missing 21), Ireland 155 (missing 17).
So, go figure, but 22-9 stands forever.
“We’ll look at the performance more than the result and say in the performance the seven line breaks we did make, how did we create those?
“Did we play with width? I don’t think anyone can say we didn’t play with width. At times in the 22 some of the ball was very slow, which makes it very hard, particularly when you get into the 22 and you get slowed down.
“I think there was a period there where we were playing pretty close [to the Welsh try line?] and in a five minute period we picked up our third penalty five metres out from the line. That’s when we actually took the three points [to make it 15-9] but we had gone back to the lineout before that.
“When you don’t convert [tries from the lineout] it becomes very tough. I think for players they start to feel pressure themselves and feel tense and potentially don’t play with the same freedom.
“Looking across the stats in the game it is actually incredibly even across the board except for those two stats.”
We could go round and round all night.
“We know that’s the law, that’s how it is.”
“You are always going to have frustrations. There were a few neck rolls out there that were pretty visible. I don’t think Wayne could have picked all that up as there was so much happening.
“That game, for me, I don’t know for you people watching, but it seemed incredibly frenetic at times. It was going at 100 miles an hour and then when it got into the 22s it started to chug at two or three miles an hour.
“It is very difficult once you get close to construct enough to get over. That’s what was most frustrating...we had a couple of balls that slipped through our fingers. Players will be disappointed with that.”
When Sexton departed for 10 minutes it was 6-5 to Ireland. When he returned it was 15-6 to Wales.
“The yellow card was crucial. Ten points in ten minutes. I feel sorry for Johnny, he’s trapped in by three players and can’t get out but, that close to the line, that’s sometimes what happens.”
Anyway, there it is, from the coach himself, take it or leave it.
Or ask Wales coach Rob Howley the same question.
“A Joe Schmidt side predictable? Come on, man.”