SIX NATIONS: Ireland's right frame of mind
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ireland coach Joe Schmidt would love his players to replicate the intense pressure they put France under for an hour over the whole of their high-octane final Six Nations clash with Wales on Saturday.
However, the 53-year-old New Zealander concedes even if he is a renowned perfectionist that human beings are not machines and cannot be programmed to repeat such intensity.
Schmidt – who steps down after the World Cup later this year following a run of unprecedented success for Ireland during his six year tenure – takes charge of his final Six Nations match where victory over the Welsh would deny their opponents the Grand Slam and he would secure a fourth title should England lose at home to an injury-ravaged Scotland.
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Ireland, though, have found trips to Wales “complicated” as Schmidt put it and indeed he is yet to taste victory in two Six Nations visits although they beat the Welsh in a warm-up Test prior to the 2015 World Cup in Cardiff.
“That intensity we brought, to replicate that, the human being, they’re not a regular machine so you’ve got to try to make sure that you’re in the right frame of mind and you’re ready to go,” said Schmidt.
“All those things are a little bit more complicated than saying right, I can tick that box, I can be satisfied with that 60 minutes – especially the first 40 – we just have to put two of those together.
“Now, I’d love it if we put two of those together but I know it’s very hard to do.”
Schmidt, who admitted he is always worrying regardless of the level of performance, said there was a lot to admire in a much-improved Irish performance, which saw them ease to a 26-0 lead over a supine French side before conceding two late tries for a 26-14 victory, which would hopefully be reproduced against the Welsh.
“There’s some things that looked bang on target but to replicate those, it’s like anything,” he said.
“If you become distracted at all then there’s a risk that they won’t be replicated the following time you get out there and play.
We’ve got to stay as focused as we can on the things we didn’t do so well, obviously those two tries at the end, they’re a frustration.”
Schmidt – who has guided the Irish to victories over all of the southern hemisphere heavyweights including two historic wins over world champions New Zealand as well as a Test series win in Australia – acknowledges the Welsh defence is a formidable wall as the Scots found on Saturday despite incessant second-half pressure.
Schmidt will be mindful too his side will not be able to afford the luxury of letting slip three golden try opportunities which they did against the French.
“They are tough,” said Schmidt.
“They make things challenging.”
However, looking on the bright side Schmidt said world player of the year Johnny Sexton – who appeared back on his game for the first time in the tournament against the French – could make the Welsh pay with his impressive goal-kicking abilities.
“Certainly, they rack up a penalty count when they are down there, at the same time,” said Schmidt.
“So if we can keep that sort of pressure on, like Scotland did, and we’re not chasing the game at the time, like Scotland were, then you put yourself in a more positive position to get the result.”