Overreaction to Joe Schmidt news shows Ireland’s national inferiority complex – The Irish Times


When you first enter Eden Park, it is the extraordinary architectural blandness of the place that strikes you.

“That’s it?” You ask yourself. “Why such a commotion?”

You have to dig deeper than the physical to understand that it’s not bricks and mortar that make Eden Park the toughest place on the planet for away teams.

Eden Park represents the New Zealand people’s belief in the invincibility of the black jersey wearing the silver fern. Like the rugby superpower that they are, the Kiwis aim to project that power outwards and bully the world of rugby into bend to their will.

Despite the devastating power of New Zealand rugby, it also has a great weakness. New Zealand rugby has only two emotions. The excitement of winning and the panic attack that engulfs the nation with a single defeat.

From 1987 to 2011, this ecstasy or forgetfulness mentality, which is as deeply ingrained in New Zealand rugby culture as Eden Park’s invincibility, put such unreasonable pressure on their teams that for five Cups back-to-back World Cups, New Zealand teams simply couldn’t perform to their potential.

In this unnatural environment of world supremacy or crisis, Eden Park is the refuge of the Kiwis. This is where the crisis of defeat can never exist.

The New Zealand public believe victory at Eden Park is guaranteed. A 100% sure thing. This is where Ireland’s great opportunity finds its genesis as guaranteed victory in rugby does not exist.

However, instead of focusing on that wonderful opportunity which Ireland have won with brilliant performances against New Zealand over the past few years, Ireland have decided to have their own old fashioned panic attack. this week.

As Covid took down New Zealand head coach Ian Foster, Joe Schmidt was asked to come into the Kiwi camp and lend a hand. Like a scene from Lord of the Rings, Irish rugby descended into a state of hysteria when Schmidt, the great green wizard, appeared in the ranks of the dark side.

The Irish rugby players picked up their children early from school, stopped at the supermarket and cleaned the place of toilet paper, then came home and crawled under their beds.

As Russian missiles rained down on Ukraine, Joe Schmidt stepped in to help New Zealand’s Covid-hit rugby team made headlines.

Honestly, I can’t remember ever witnessing such an extraordinary overreaction. He unfortunately displayed a national inferiority complex against New Zealand who should be dead and buried but live on superstition, like some sort of rugby banshee.

By winning three of their last five games against New Zealand, Ireland have proven that the idea that the New Zealand team possesses some form of mystical, untouchable supremacy is a big myth.

Please don’t get me wrong. New Zealand are a great rugby nation for which I have the greatest respect but that does not mean that when Ireland enters the high temple of Eden Park they have to kneel before the altar of black jersey, lower your head and concede all hope.

Never, under any circumstances, bend your knee in front of this black jersey.

The greatest respect you can give your opponent is to do everything in your power to defeat them.

The reality is that, like every other international team on the planet, the New Zealand coaching staff have been preparing their tactics for Ireland for many months and Schmidt would have been an integral part of that preparation, albeit very much behind the scenes.

The fact that Joe’s role as manager and analyst for New Zealand was not to officially start until after the Irish tour was simply Joe displaying his class and great respect for his former team as he did not wish to face them.

The vast majority of the planning for the opening test was completed and delivered in full to the national team last week. Training during Test week is an exercise in refinement led by assistant coaches Brad Mooar and Greg Feek, not Joe Schmidt.

What this side show has done is divert the attention of the Irish rugby community from realizing that while winning at Eden Park is the toughest mission on planet rugby, by that very definition it is also the greatest opportunity for Ireland to make history.

When Ireland beat New Zealand last November, a year after Joe Schmidt left, they played superior rugby, with superior conviction, using superior skill, at a pace that New Zealand never couldn’t stand, for 80 minutes.

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This was due to Andy Farrell selecting combinations of players mainly from Leinster and also smartly adopting much of Leinster’s game plan. This means the Irish team’s key combinations have played and practiced together for hundreds of hours.

With Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony the only players in the starting XV not trained at the Leinster academy, Farrell rightly went ahead with his plan.

“Carpe Diem” is a cliché, but in sport it remains the fundamental truth. Teams that seize the opportunity on any given day can achieve extraordinary results. Watch La Rochelle in the Champions Cup final.

Never again in their lives will this group of highly talented Irish players be given the stunning opportunity to make history, challenge the bookies and win at Eden Park.

To attack the mythology of the jersey and where Ireland must act with a deeply intense and precise physical aggression far above anything it has ever produced before in its rugby life.

It doesn’t have to be reckless aggression, but rather a ruthless, warlike mindset like an active disciple.

Away from home, defense is paramount. Especially the kick-hunting Irish defense that needs to negate the buckets of counter-attacking potential lurking around the park in black jerseys.

Ireland should emulate the breaking tactics used by La Rochelle against Leinster in the Champions Cup final and turn every ruck into a slow MMA brawl. Ireland will demand more aggression and precision in the tackling contest than any Irish team has ever executed before in the nation’s history.

With the ball, Ireland must impose on the New Zealanders their game plan at a run, led with great precision, and relieve the pressure on the home team.

All of this will require a monumental display of skill, tactics and mental toughness, of which this Irish side are capable.

Still, most would say the mission of winning at Eden Park is an impossible task.

To seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to defeat New Zealand at Eden Park and claim their place in rugby history, Ireland must channel the spirit of the life-changing words spoken by the heavyweight boxing world champion heavy, Muhammad Ali.

“The impossible is temporary. Nothing is impossible.”

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