THE DUST IS still settling after the most frenetic Six Nations finale in living memory, but already thoughts are beginning to turn towards the 2015 World Cup.
Back-to-back championships mean Ireland’s squad will head into the global tournament with justified confidence in their ability to deliver a semi-final at least, but perhaps the element that gives them most belief of all is head coach Joe Schmidt.
Schmidt has enjoyed consistent success in Ireland since 2010. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
The Kiwi has been an almost non-stop success since arriving in Ireland in 2010, first with Leinster and now with the national team. Two Six Nations titles in his first two attempts, as well as a clean sweep of last November’s Tests matches, underline his quality.
Steve Hansen, Warren Gatland, Stuart Lancaster and Michael Cheika could all have claims made in their names, but Ireland certainly possess one of the finest coaches in the world game at present.
It’s a major advantage before September and October’s World Cup, and the Ireland players are fully behind Schmidt and his coaching team of Les Kiss, Simon Easterby, Greg Feek, and Richie Murphy.
“I think the trust the players have in what he does and what his coaching staff do is a massive part of why we’re successful. Certainly times like Australia in the first game , the England game last year, Wales last week, those were times where other teams might question themselves – but we never did.
“I don’t think we’ve ever once done that. There’s a lot of trust and a lot of confidence in the coaches.”
That all said, there was a bedding-in period for Ireland’s player with Schmidt, perhaps explaining that early poor performance against the Wallabies, although the Leinster-based contingent already knew what they should expect.
Schmidt and O’Connell at Murrayfield last weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Indeed, there was a natural nervousness from the Munster, Ulster and Connacht men as to whether Schmidt would rate them. Conor Murray is one player who admits to that slight unease.
“When Joe came in we were nervous whether he would like you as a player, the style of play and would you fit into that; that was the main part for me,” says Murray. “I’m sure [it was the same] for a number of other players too.
One of the reasons Schmidt enjoys the level of trust O’Connell alludes to above is that his game plans so often work ideally. The fact that his starter plays are also very often perfectly built to exploit opposition weaknesses also floods the players with belief.
Simply put, when a coach hands players a plan and it works, they will get total buy-in in return.