Schmidt solely focused on Ireland

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 11:35
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt advised All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to never become a bookmaker after claims of underdog tag ahead of the sides rematch in Dublin.

Hansen surprised many not least the bookmaking fraternity by saying based on the historic 40-29 defeat by the Irish, their first win over the Kiwis in 29 meetings, in Chicago a fortnight ago the All Blacks would start in the unfamiliar position of underdog on Saturday.

"I don't think so, I know Steve pretty well," said Schmidt when asked about Hansen indulging in mind games.

"Based on a recent result he's put his summation on that. I don't think he believes we'll pay too much heed to that because we know the quality they are.

"Part of that quality is their coaching team. I learned a lot from some of the people who are involved there.

"I think they are still in a really strong position,"

Schmidt, who this year committed himself to Ireland till the 2019 World Cup just as Hansen did with New Zealand, said it would be wrong to believe the Irish won because the All Blacks approached the game in Chicago in a complacent frame of mind having just set a new world mark of 18 for successive Test wins.

"We just want to try to focus on our own performance, try to use Chicago as a reference point," said the 51-year-old coach.

"I certainly don't believe that there was any disrespect from the All Blacks or arrogance in Chicago.

"We've got huge respect for them, how could you not have for a team that's won the last two World Cups."

Schmidt, who has turned Ireland's fortunes around since he replaced Declan Kidney in 2013 guiding them to two Six Nations titles in 2014 and 2015, said the way the Irish odds for a win on Saturday had come down since Chicago reflected what an impression their win had made.

"You'd love to think that we're favourites wouldn't you?" said Schmidt.

"But I wouldn't suggest that Steve Hansen become a bookmaker!

"I think we're at about six to one not that we're allowed to indulge in that (betting).

"It's a bit better than the 13 to one we were in Chicago.

"You certainly wouldn't put us as favourites.

"I think everyone is due a hiccup,"

On the personnel front, Schmidt restricted himself to just the one change to the starting XV from Chicago bringing in experienced flanker Sean O'Brien for the injured Jordi Murphy.

O'Brien, 29 and capped 43 times, has had an injury-plagued career and Schmidt had not been willing to risk him in Chicago despite the player voicing his opinion he was fit to play.

"We thought it was probably better that Sean [O'Brien] start rather than come off the bench," explained Schmidt.

"He needs to feel his way into the game, with the warm-up too.

"Josh [Van der Flier and another flank] did such a good job off the bench in Chicago that his versatility will be a big boost later in the match."

Victory on Saturday at Lansdowne Road for the hosts would be the first time since South Africa in 2009 the All Blacks have lost successive Tests to the same opposition.

Source: Agence France-Presse