Joe Schmidt defends Ireland’s ‘very varied game’

Joe Schmidt has hit back at critics of his tactics by insisting Ireland boast a “very varied game” despite their comprehensive Guinness Six Nations loss to England.

A host of pundits accused Ireland of lacking a Plan B in the wake of last weekend’s 32-20 physical battering at the hands of England.

But Schmidt has moved to defend his approach ahead of their trip to Murrayfield to face Scotland on Saturday.

(PA Graphics)

“I’d like to see how they’d describe our Plan A to be honest,” said head coach Schmidt, responding to accusations Ireland’s gameplan is limited.

“I do think I always get a lot of advice, there wouldn’t be too many weeks go by that I don’t get a letter, suggesting somebody play there, or suggesting a set play or suggesting something.

“And that’s when we’re winning. So when you lose you get at least three letters.

“And so you can expect people to be saying a lot about how we play, and what Plan A, B, C or D look like.

Ireland suffered a defeat in their Six Nations opener (Brian Lawless/PA)

“So I’m not sure how they summarise Plan A, because I think we have a very varied game.

“We play strong off set-piece, we play a varied kicking game, we play with a varied attacking game. And we try to vary our defensive game.

“So I guess I’ll leave them to do their analysis, and we’ll keep analysing what we’re doing, and trying to improve.”

Munster’s Chris Farrell will make his first Test start in almost a year when Ireland face Scotland this weekend, with Robbie Henshaw ruled out through a dead leg.

Rob Kearney has returned at full-back after the experiment of moving Henshaw to 15 to face England failed amid Ireland’s heavy defeat in Dublin.

Ireland’s Rob Kearney has been restored to the 15 shirt (Niall Carson/PA)

Quinn Roux will partner James Ryan at lock, with Devin Toner having joined Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne on the injury list.

Henshaw’s injury blow, coupled with Garry Ringrose’s hamstring problem, has opened the door for Munster’s battering-ram centre Farrell to win his fourth cap.

Farrell has struggled with a string of knee injuries since his last Test appearance, a man of the match showing in Ireland’s 37-27 Six Nations victory over Wales in February 2018.

“Robbie has a dead leg and just hasn’t recovered in time,” said Schmidt.

“It’s just a bit of aggravation after having a knock. It’s a knock on top of a knock.

“It does make it difficult. The problem is he maybe could have played. But if you get another bump on it it debilitates you quickly, and then you have to make another change.”

When asked if Kearney would have returned at full-back even had Henshaw been fit, Schmidt added: “Probably once Garry Ringrose was ruled out it was going to be trying to keep a little continuity as best we can and get as cohesive as we can in a short space of time.

“You’ve got Chris Farrell sitting in the wings, massively motivated to do his best. So it’s a great opportunity to get him in and give him a run.

“We’re just going to have to forge ahead, but it’s an exciting opportunity to give Chris Farrell a run against Scotland. He’s coming back to form after a long lay-off.”

- Press Association

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