Saturday, December 14, 2019
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Relieved Schmidt turns Irish attention to Wales

Dublin: After his first match day as a Six Nations coach began with a phone call from the doctor to say his captain was unable to play, Joe Schmidt was just happy to end it with a win for his Irish side.

Schmidt, appointed last year after Ireland’s worst Six Nations in 14 years, was awoken on Sunday with the news that Paul O’Connell had barely slept after coming down with a chest infection.

Ireland started slowly without the influential lock but lifted the pace in the second half to run out easy winners 28-6, much to the relief of the two-time Heineken Cup-winning coach.

“The day probably didn’t start too well with a phone call at eight in the morning. It’s just a real relief to me that the game is over and done with and that we got the win on the board,” Schmidt told a news conference.

Ireland next meet Wales, who laboured past Italy to kick off their bid for a third championship in a row on Saturday, but Schmidt said the holders’ extra day of preparation for Saturday’s clash would make a huge difference.

“It’s hard to quantify, but it is massive. One of the things they can do is rest up overnight and they will be sitting there watching our game with a full focus on what they’re doing next week,” the New Zealander said.

“Also just the quality of training that you can do. I don’t think on Tuesday that we will do a lot, and we’ll try to ramp it up into one training on Thursday. It’s a pretty narrow preparation to play such a good team.

“We haven’t turned our attention to it yet, that will happen overnight. I probably won’t see the Superbowl either but Jamie will let me know what happened,” he said, referring to American Football fan and captain for the day Jamie Heaslip.

Heaslip, who said the coach interrupted his omelette early on Sunday to tell him he would lead the team, scored Ireland’s second try on Sunday after winger Andrew Trimble put the nervy start to bed just before the break and Rob Kearney stretched the lead late on.

The Leinster number eight said huge improvements would be needed when Wales visit Dublin next week.

For Scotland, who showed endeavour in the first half but lacked the killer touch to seriously trouble the hosts, coach Scott Johnson urged his young side to keep doing what they are doing.

With four of their starting backline sharing just 25 caps before Sunday’s defeat, Johnson believes his side will come good with a little more experience.

“There was a naivety in our team today, we had more attacks in their 22 than they had in ours and that’s the irony in it and the disappointment but I’m just going to encourage these kids to do what they’re doing, just do it better,” Johnson said.

“The beauty of the group I’m coaching is they can take it on the chin. We’re not running away from it, we may have to go to a dark place and bring some torches. But we will get there by having time in the saddle.”