Joe Schmidt: There is 'a degree of excitement' around our young squad

Joe Schmidt: There is 'a degree of excitement' around our young squad

Once upon a time misdirection and sleight of hand were conjurers' tricks consigned to rugby's field of play. Ahead of this NatWest 6 Nations, it is the coaches attempting to draw a veil over their true intentions.

England boss Eddie Jones continues to play down his own side's chances of a third consecutive title, installing Ireland as favourites.

The wily Australian knows all too well just how to shift pressure and focus off his own players and onto rivals.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has been happy enough to laugh off Jones' ruse, but continues to employ his own stratagems for managing expectation.

Ireland swept the board with three wins in November, unveiling a new-found swagger behind the scrum.

Schmidt quickly rejected notions his side had expanded their style at the end of the November series - and continues to stick to his guns.

"The more it changes the more it stays the same," said Schmidt, of rugby's overall attacking blueprints, at Wednesday's official Six Nations launch.

Schmidt spent the first two years of his Ireland tenure baulking at suggestions Ireland played too narrow and with too much tactical kicking. Two straight Six Nations crowns told their own story.

While Schmidt will continue to conceal Ireland's current evolution however, the autumn threw up some enterprising tactics from the men in green.

Johnny Sexton had long since perfected the art of the wraparound play, to dictate a backline move from first fly-half and then centre in a bid to keep an attack alive.

Joe Schmidt: There is 'a degree of excitement' around our young squad

In November, Ireland had Conor Murray popping up in the channel between 10 and 12, and Sexton then ghosting into the lines between the two centres - leaving opponents flummoxed.

Schmidt's well-contrived and executed additions to Ireland's approach paid big dividend. Ireland will be well served by chasing a repeat in this year's Six Nations, but Schmidt can be forgiven for attempting to shroud those blueprints in whatever possible mystery.

"I think in the first Six Nations we scored the most amount of tries," said Schmidt.

"I think it was pretty fluid, and it was probably contrasted in the next Six Nations. You didn't have the same midfield. It was a new midfield, so things change with personnel.

"It was probably contrasted in the next Six Nations when we did not have the same midfield. It was a new midfield. It was a change in personnel.

"This Six Nations we have the youngest squad we have had and there is a degree of excitement in that.

"It does not mean we change the way we play. It means some players will play slightly differently.

Joe Schmidt: There is 'a degree of excitement' around our young squad

"We have got guys, you look at skill sets, at personnel, and you look at some of the players we had four years ago and you look at the new breed of forward that comes out of teams and their comfort level on the ball that allows them to play slightly differently.

"Some players will have played more square and straight and now players will see a bit more space and that variety of play has always been there.

"I think you can go back to a whole lot of stats and how many passes are made and in the end, ours have not changed a whole lot since that first one where we were successful.

"The second tournament was successful as well but the context of games, in terms of the conditions you play in, can affect the way you end up playing.

"I look at other teams as well and see the way they are trying to develop. I think it is going to be interesting.

"The rules have not changed very much. We are trying to get the best out of the individuals we have.

"Our individuals are different this year. I do believe there is a core but there are a lot of guys who do not have that many caps. As I said it is our youngest group, therefore, it will be interesting to see how they develop the way they play."

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