Schmidt appears calm but is maintaining ‘intensity’ with Ireland, Stockdale says

The head coach has seemed calm in the face of his side’s mixed performances at the Rugby World Cup.

By Press Association Published: 5 October 2019 - 4.36am
Rugby Union

Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Joe Schmidt has not deserted his taskmaster ways even if he has appeared relaxed at the World Cup, insists Jacob Stockdale.

Head coach Schmidt has remained unusually calm in the wake of Ireland’s shock 19-12 loss to Japan that threatened to derail World Cup campaign.

The 54-year-old Kiwi was cracking jokes with Johnny Sexton in front of the media in the immediate aftermath of Ireland’s patchy 35-0 bonus-point win over Russia on Thursday night.

Ireland v Scotland – Pool A – 2019 Rugby World Cup – International Stadium Yokohama
Jacob Stockdale, pictured, believes Joe Schmidt continues to push Ireland just as hard as ever (Adam Davy/PA)

This Japan adventure has seen Schmidt in fine form on public appearances, but Ulster wing Stockdale insisted the notoriously hard-nosed operator is still pushing the players to the limit behind the scenes.

“Whenever we’re training Joe likes to push the intensity and really build it which is obviously class for us as players, you get that intensity that’s almost like a match,” said Stockdale, of Schmidt.

“It’s amazing how much pressure one man can put on an entire team but it’s brilliant he does.

“Whenever you’re off he’s a bit more relaxed and you’re able to chill out a bit more, I think he gets a really good balance in his coaching style.”

Ireland v Russia – Pool A – 2019 Rugby World Cup – Kobe Misaki Stadium

Johnny Sexton, pictured, after Ireland’s 35-0 win over Russia in Kobe (Adam Davy/PA)Sexton dropped the translation console linked to his headset in the post-match press conference after the Russia win, pulling a worried face as he checked the equipment was not damaged.

Schmidt immediately joked “at least that’s the only thing you’ve dropped all night, Johnny”, in a far more light-hearted moment than he would perhaps have offered in previous years.

Ireland remain frustrated with the high error count from their five-try win over the Russians, but must roll quickly on from Kobe to Fukuoka.

Schmidt’s men now have a nine-day gap between matches, and the head coach has handed his weary players a hugely rare World Cup weekend off.

“At least that's the only thing you've dropped all night, Johnny”
- Joe Schmidt

Ireland do not face Samoa until Saturday, October 12 and that extended gap will allow for a host of hard-worked players to refresh stressed bodies and minds.

Japan shocked the globe for the second time in four years with their 19-12 win over Ireland in Shizuoka. The Brave Blossoms conjured a triumph every inch as stunning as their 34-32 win over South Africa in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup.

Japan boss Jamie Joseph insisted his squad had been preparing for the specific challenge of facing Ireland for three years, raising questions on whether the Brave Blossoms have handed others the blueprint for how to shut down Schmidt’s men.

But Stockdale believes it is too facile to suggest that sharp analysis alone would ever be enough for a Test match upset.

Asked if Japan had outlined the framework for a victory over Ireland, Stockdale replied: “I don’t know if it’s as easy as that; there’s a lot more factors there, like a home World Cup and a really passionate crowd.

“I thought the support in the game (generally) was class but there it really was incredible, just so passionate.

“There’s a lot more than just doing analysis to beat a team. I thought they played well and we didn’t match it.

“That’s the nature of rugby – it’s not just that if you do your analysis you’ll beat somebody.”