Six Nations

Schmidt looks to 'fickle friend' to stay onside for Grand Slam bid

2018-02-25 13:59
Joe Schmidt (AFP)

Dublin - The confidence accrued by an unbeaten Ireland team will stand them in good stead as they bid to seal a Six Nations Grand Slam, said coach Joe Schmidt.

However, the 52-year-old New Zealander, who was speaking after the Irish had secured a bonus point win in a pulsating 37-27 win over Wales at Lansdowne Road, added that confidence is a "fickle friend".

The Irish still have two tough encounters to come in this year's championship.

They face an improving Scotland side, who will come to Dublin in a fortnight on the back of a 25-13 win over champions England.

Then, they go to Twickenham on March 17 - Saint Patrick's Day - to face England, where they could secure a first Grand Slam since Schmidt took over after the 2013 Six Nations.

"Confidence is a fickle friend and is more likely to befriend you if you open up a team a few times," said Schmidt.

"When you make a pass, and it is successful, it builds confidence. Certainly confidence does give you a bit of a boost - it builds momentum."

Captain Rory Best believes having young blood in the side is key with the Irish on a 10-Test winning streak.

"The beauty of having less experienced guys is they don't have the stigma of losing," said the 35-year-old, who became the third most capped Irish player of all time with 109 on Saturday.

"When you get young guys in there no matter what the score is they want to carry on and edge us back into the game.

"They all expect to win and want to win and put in a lot of hard work. It is very exciting and we need to use it in the right direction."

Schmidt - who has guided the Irish to two Six Nations titles in 2014 and 2015 - agreed.

He said watching some of the inexperienced players performing against a side that had brought back three British and Irish Lions, such as Leigh Halfpenny, into the team was hugely encouraging.

"(Lock) James Ryan and (prop) Andrew Porter - what a huge stage to come in to and you have to be hugely impressed," said Schmidt.

"(Centre) Chris Farrell being man of the match is super. He was really well supported by Bundee Aki who only has a handful of caps and Jacob Stockdale (who scored two tries to take his tally to eight in seven Tests) has a nose for the tryline."

While confidence is bubbling, Schmidt say there is plenty to work on in the next fortnight especially in defence where for a second successive game the Irish conceded three tries.

"We were caught out wide and that is a concern when Scotland have the likes of Sean Maitland," said Schmidt.

"I think we helped them (Wales) a little bit we had guys doing different things but we can repair a lot of that."

For Wales coach Warren Gatland there is not much left to play for apart from pride with games to come against Italy and France.

"I think we have an opportunity to see new players come into the squad without making too many changes and finish the championship well," said Gatland.

The 54-year-old New Zealander, who was taking charge of Wales for the 100th time against a country he used to coach, said Italy will not be taken lightly even though they have lost a record 15 successive Six Nations matches.

"Italy have definitely improved from a conditioning point of view and they stayed in the game against France for a while so we mustn't get too impatient."

Read more on:    ireland  |  scotland  |  six nations  |  joe schmidt  |  rugby


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