Rugby: Joe Schmidt bracing for All Blacks backlash

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo / Photosport
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo / Photosport

With the distraction of a test against Canada now behind him, Ireland's coach Joe Schmidt is bracing for a New Zealand "blacklash" in this weekend's mouth-watering return clash with the All Blacks in Dublin.

"We probably got them at an opportune time [in Chicago]," Schmidt told reporters after Ireland downed Canada 52-21 in the Irish capital at the weekend.

"Perhaps we surprised them a little bit. I think they will come full strength next week. Fully loaded."

After making history in Chicago last weekend with their first victory over New Zealand in 111 years, it was difficult to escape the impression that Ireland's focus - even during the eight-try demolition of a limited Canada team - was almost exclusively on the rematch with the All Blacks.

That much was apparent from the team sheet for the Canada test which featured a full house of 15 changes from the side that beat the All Blacks.

While a crowd of 50,000 still turned up at the Aviva Stadium to cheer on the 'B' team, there was definitely a feeling that this was merely the filling in a far meatier sandwich.

Not that there were not a few hoping to impress Schmidt sufficiently that they might force their way into contention for this Sunday's clash. Some of them might even have done that.

Keith Earls looked lively throughout, captain-on-the-night Peter O'Mahony played the full 80 minutes and got stronger as the game wore on, as did his fellow flanker Sean O'Brien - who like O'Mahony is returning from a lengthy injury layoff. O'Brien made 13 carries in a barnstorming display and must now be in Schmidt's thoughts, especially with Jordi Murphy ruled out.

Schmidt admitted he would be having sleepless nights trying to get the balance just right for a fixture which has already gripped the nation.

"Back row, the back three, even the front three," he said, when asked which areas in particular he was looking at. "It will hopefully be the right squad to give the All Blacks a good game.

"One of the things that we just do is say 'right, this is what we believe might work, let's commit to this' and try to put it together as best we can," he said.

"Probably get distracted about what our opponents are doing and what they might bring. There will be an awareness of that but a focus on what we're doing because in the end, it is quite an intense preparation period.

"We have a light training on Monday to get ourselves organised, train Tuesday, then have our team training on Thursday when everyone knows what they are doing. Then you are into the game after the captain's run on a Friday.

"If you spend too much time distracted looking externally then you miss a little bit of the precious time you've got together to just focus on what needs to be done with an awareness of what they're likely to bring."

Irish media are equally wary of All Blacks retribution with the Dublin-based Independent newspaper warning of the need to "withstand the fury of a wounded New Zealand".

"Despite Schmidt's brilliance and his players' stellar form, many fear that Ireland's win in America will rouse an almighty response out of the All Blacks when they come to Dublin," warned the newspaper.

- NZ Herald

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