Ireland's 'complicated fixture'
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: Ireland have gained some desperately-needed confidence ahead of their Six Nations clash with Wales in what is always a “complicated fixture”, said coach Joe Schmidt.
The 53-year-old New Zealander will head to Cardiff for Saturday’s match on the back of his side gaining a bonus point 26-14 win over an unimpressive France team to keep alive their hopes of a fourth Six Nations title since he took over after the 2013 tournament.
They will, however, be taking on a Welsh side bidding for a Grand Slam and who will have had an extra day to recuperate and prepare as they beat Scotland 18-11 on Saturday.
The Welsh top the table on 16 points, one ahead of England, who host Scotland on Saturday, with the Irish a further point adrift.
“Look, it’ll give confidence but we know what a challenge next week’s going to be anyway,” said Schmidt.
“We said all along what we had to contend with a six-day turnaround from a team in blue [France] to a team in red [Wales].
“It’s not something we want to miss a beat with now, it’s something we want to keep building into in the next six days if we can.”
“They’ll [Wales] be primed, very much primed for us next week.”
Schmidt said a dominant performance by his team, and getting the bonus point after failing to impress in the three previous games, is just the tonic they needed for the Wales match.
“Yeah, it’s always important to do that because you need the points where we are,” said Schmidt.
“But you’re right, we need the confidence as well. We need to get back on the front-foot.
“In six days’ time it becomes a whole different equation. Wales in Cardiff is always a complicated fixture for us.
“They showed yesterday when Scotland squeezed Wales into their own ’22, into their own half but they found it very tough to get a score with some talented players.”
Schmidt, who steps down after the World Cup later this year, said it is good they produced flashes of the form that made them virtually unbeatable last year which included achieving the Grand Slam.
“Again, I know there’s been some frustration externally and it has been internal as well – we’ve been frustrated that we haven’t been as cohesive as we’d have liked, that we started the Championship on a really flat note [defeat by England],” he said.
“One of the great reminders for us is that you get nothing back in a Test match.
“You get one window and you can’t just open it a little bit to let the breeze in.
“You’ve got to open it right up and get through it. So, I think that’s what we showed a little bit more of today [Saturday].”
Schmidt, though, played down the importance of the game in Cardiff in terms of how high it would rank with him on a heady list of scalps which includes two historic wins over world champions New Zealand.
“It’s funny, people might talk about that but it’s just for us really, we want to finish as well as we can in the Six Nations.
“It’s less about where Wales are positioned.
“We know that if we could get a win we would go past them in the Championship on the ladder at the end of the day, but at the same time it is just another game.”