Joe Schmidt has admitted Ireland’s maiden victory over New Zealand weighs heavily with “daunting” expectation.
Ireland’s Kiwi boss stamped his name into his adopted nation’s folklore on Saturday, as his side despatched the back-to-back world champions 40-29 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Schmidt claimed Ireland capitalised on a “vulnerable” New Zealand beset by injuries in the United States — and insisted the All Blacks will arrive for the November 19 rematch in Dublin an entirely different proposition.
The peerless Brodie Retallick will be fit to solve New Zealand’s lock crisis at the Aviva Stadium clash, with Schmidt admitting Ireland targeted the All Blacks shifting flanker Jerome Kaino into the second row on Saturday.
The week the Chicago Cubs ended their 108-year wait for a World Series crown, Ireland made history of their own with a victory over the All Blacks in the Windy City.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt put their historic victory over the All Blacks down to the strength of character in their heroic side.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen paid tribute to the victorious Ireland side by saying they were “outstanding” and “deserved the win.”
“It’s kind of daunting,” said Schmidt of an anticipated hike in expectation after Ireland’s maiden win over New Zealand in 111 years of trying.
“The amount of emotion that went into that as well as organisation, because we didn’t have too much time to train…but the training we did was bang on.
“All we can guarantee is that we’ll keep working really hard and the players are really receptive to working really hard, and we’ll just keep trying to grow the group.
“The reality is that we did get them when they were a little bit vulnerable.
“I remember after the World Cup and people said ‘why is there such a big gap between north and south?’ But there’s no chasm there.
“It only takes a little bit of fluctuation for someone to be off their game and another team to knock them over.
“That’s why I said that the All Blacks were a little bit under-staffed today, and you wouldn’t say we were at full strength necessarily but we were at full fitness, and that was what we planned all along.
“I know some of the decisions were queried but we had in our minds exactly what we needed, or felt we needed, to do. “Now, you don’t always get that right, and things don’t always work out as you hope, so it’s daunting from that perspective because those margins are very fine.”
Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip celebrates following his team’s 40-29 victory over New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago, United States. Phil Walter/Getty Images
Allied to Retallick’s absence on Saturday, New Zealand also missed ankle injury victim Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano, who had returned home after a family bereavement.
That forced a rejig with experienced flanker Kaino filling the second row breach, and 22-year-old Scott Barrett making a try-scoring debut off the bench.
While Schmidt admitted being “blown away” by the victory, he still urged for a sense of calm.
“I think what it does demonstrate there is that any team is susceptible if there are injuries,” said Schmidt.
“Take out those three second rows, and you get a few injuries during the game as well, and you can be vulnerable.
“I think rugby is such an inter-dependant game that as soon as one of the cogs gets shifted slightly, or they’re not quite in unison with the other cogs, the wheel doesn’t turn too well.
“I certainly would sympathise with the All Blacks a little bit because that wasn’t the All Blacks team that we’ve seen through the Rugby Championship and I’d have no doubt Brodie Retallick will be fit to contest the match in Dublin — and he’ll change a fair bit of what they can deliver at lineout time.”
Bullocking centre Robbie Henshaw scythed home for the fifth and decisive try on Saturday, cutting home after a fine switch with number eight Jamie Heaslip.
Schmidt revealed Ireland had been desperate to run that play to capitalise on the 23-year-old’s line-breaking talents since the summer tour to South Africa — but had been forced to wait for the chance.
“I think he slipped off [Waisake] Naholo early in the game, but he just has massively exacting standards and I just thought he was incredible,” said Schmidt.
“I didn’t think anyone was going to stop him when he got that ball on the inside from Jamie.
“They’d been practising that play for about, well, we were going to do it in the first Test in South Africa and we didn’t get a scrum in the right place.”
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY