Joe Schmidt has warned Jerome Garces not to take any “preconceived ideas” into Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales when it comes to refereeing the scrum.
Wales boss Warren Gatland has openly admitted to starting three-cap prop Rob Evans ahead of 119-Test veteran Gethin Jenkins to account for French referee Garces’ set-piece ruling.
Gatland also hailed Garces as among the World Cup’s best referees, well aware that Ireland were left frustrated with the Frenchman’s scrum interpretation against both Italy and Argentina in the autumn’s global contest.
Schmidt branded some of the scrum calls against Ireland in the World Cup “exasperating”, before insisting his forwards will seek a clean scrum contest in Sunday’s Aviva Stadium clash.
“I don’t think referees can afford to go into any game with preconceived ideas,” said Schmidt.
“If you look at our games against England in the last two years there have been great scrum battles, they stay up, they stay square and you get a good contest.
“And you look through the games in the World Cup and it is exasperating to be honest. It’s one of the things that I’ve no doubt Wales are trying to correct as well.”
Six Nations Challengers
Flanker CJ Stander will make his Ireland debut on Sunday, partnered by his Munster team-mate Tommy O’Donnell in the back row.
Leinster duo Sean O’Brien and Rob Kearney miss out with hamstring problems, but Ireland insist both will be fit to face France in Paris next weekend.
Garces officiated Wales’ two matches with England last year, penalising head coach Gatland’s men on a number of occasions at the scrum.
Wales’ Kiwi boss Gatland admitted “it was part of the conscious decision in terms of that selection” in preferring Scarlets youngster Evans to vastly experienced British and Irish Lion Jenkins at loosehead prop.
Ireland had their own issues with Garces during the 16-9 pool stage victory over Italy at the World Cup, and also the 43-20 quarter-final defeat to Argentina.
Ireland v Wales
Head coach Schmidt expects Ireland to number among the least penalised teams in Test rugby, and hopes his side can stay on the right side of Garces on Sunday.
“We may end up with a really good, square scrum battle on the weekend and that’s something that we would certainly be very keen to have and something we try to have week to week,” said Schmidt.
“You look through last year’s Six Nations and there were really positive scrum battles, again with England and with Scotland, either side of that Wales game there were very good battles.
“Our penalty count in the last Six Nations averaged less than 10, and the year before was less than eight – and there’s nothing that we’re doing that’s different in trying to stay disciplined.”