Schmidt says Nacewa texted to clarify comments about 'conservative approach'

Schmidt says Nacewa texted to clarify comments about 'conservative approach'

Joe Schmidt says former Leinster captain Isa Nacewa sent him a text to row back on his critical analysis of the head coach's approach to his final year in charge of Ireland.

Following Ireland's quarter-final elimination against New Zealand, Nacewa said Schmidt had backed away from the "Leinster flair" which had helped Ireland to dominate in 2018, favouring a more "conservative approach".

He said Ireland's reliance on Schmidt's structure became a weakness that was exposed in Japan.

"In the 2017/18 season, once Leinster started playing an attacking brand of rugby and the majority of the Ireland squad was Leinster-based, they let a little bit of that Leinster flair infiltrate the Ireland camp," said Nacewa last month.

"Joe started to go away from his tried-and-trusted drills and introduced a bit of what we call unstructured play, that came into Ireland camp in training, and in the Six Nations they were throwing offloads, there was continuity to their play.

"That got them all the way to the top of the world and an unbeaten year with all the trophies. Post-that, I hear they actually went away from that and started to take it back out and went back to the conservative approach and that’s just shone through the whole World Cup and 2019.

"He went back to the tried-and-trusted of what worked for the last six years and I just don’t think they were expressive enough."

Schmidt said Nacewa had texted him after his comments were broadcast on a Sky Sports podcast to clarify his thoughts.

"It's funny, I haven't seen the podcast and I haven't read what he said but he texted me," he told Off The Ball.

He said, hey Joe, the way I phrased things, it didn't quite come out as I meant it to. I could show you the text. A lot of it was very, very positive about what I'd done in Leinster and how he felt I'd influenced Irish rugby.

Schmidt contradicted Nacewa's analysis, saying he has practiced 'unstructured play' in training throughout his time in Irish rugby.

"It's interesting because in Leinster and Ireland we would have always done unstructured play. We had a drill that we would do in every open session with three sausage bags and I'd intentionally try to 'un-structure' it.

"We'd kick balls in behind them, we'd do all sorts of unstructured play."

He added: "I'd be pretty close with Isa for years and even during the World Cup, text conversations were happening.

"Even players who were there, they start trying to find reasons [for what's going wrong], but when you're forcing yourself to find reasons you might come up with something that's not actually much of a contributor to the outcome.

"We look for this cause-effect relationship but when there are so many variables it is very difficult to say that's a cause."

Schmidt also shrugged off a report that he could be lined up as a member of Ian Foster's backroom team for the New Zealand job, confirming his intention to step away from coaching for the foreseeable future.

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