10:56am Monday 10th February 2014
FOR an exercise in dignity, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt’s performance in the post-match press conference after his side had humiliated Wales took some beating, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
He could have been forgiven for getting carried away after his men’s 26-3 victory set up the very realistic prospect of their first Triple Crown since the Grand Slam season of 2009.
But he was having none of it, insisting Ireland just “got lucky” and took advantage of the fact three of Wales’ top forwards were still shaking off the effects of injury.
The New Zealander stressed Wales’ British and Irish Lions trio of captain and openside Sam Warburton, prop Gethin Jenkins and blindside Dan Lydiate were still not match fit.
Schmidt, who has an impeccable coaching record after making Leinster one of the powerhouse of European rugby having steered Leinster to two Heineken Cup titles, an Amlin Challenge Cup victory and last season’s RaboDirect Pro12, was keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
His side travel to Twickenham in two weeks to face an England also chasing the Triple Crown and Six Nations title after their 20-0 victory over Scotland in Edinburgh.
“There was some aspects of the match we were really happy with and some we were a bit lucky with,” Schmidt said of Ireland’s comprehensive win over reigning champions Wales.
“Sam Warburton hasn’t had much game-time, and neither has Dan Lydiate or Gethin Jenkins, who is normally superb over the ball, played a lot of rugby.
“They never quite got into the game really. They were perhaps not entirely match fit so, in that respect, I would suggest we were fortunate in some areas.
“Match fitness is important and those players will definitely benefit from playing.”
On Ireland’s Six Nations title aspirations, he added: “We’re certainly not going to get carried away, we’re taking small steps at the moment.
“I’m not going to think too far ahead but it’s certainly a gathering of confidence for us.
“The big, powerful team Wales brought were always going to be tough opponents.
“We’ll get together again after a couple of days, review what we’ve done, take stock and work out how we can keep getting better.
“Then we’ll plot some sort of course forward going to Twickenham.
“That’s a massive game for us now; I think England were very unlucky against France, have beaten Scotland comfortably and are an extremely powerful side.”
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