Andrew Trimble believes Ireland will need to walk a fine line between self-confidence and respect when they face the All Blacks in their international season opener in Chicago’s Soldier Field and again in Dublin two weeks later.
Steve Hansen’s world champions will have played half-a-dozen Rugby Championship games by the time they meet Ireland at Soldier Field on November 5 and the Kiwis looked ominous in trouncing Australia 42-8 in Sydney in their season opener last weekend.
“It’s important to have balance,” said Trimble after a 48-hour national camp this week. “From an Ulster point of view, whenever there’s a fear factor there, whenever we’re going away from home, everything has to fall into place. Whenever that’s there sometimes it produces a big performance.
“It’s important we appreciate how good that team is but also that they’re just 15 guys on a pitch. We know that if we perform as well as we can, like we did here a few years ago when we did everything but beat them, who’s to say we can’t improve on that by 1% or 2%?”
The Irish squad convened with speculation ongoing over whether or not Schmidt will extend his IRFU contract beyond its current end date of July 2017 but there was no indication of any intentions on the part of the in-demand Kiwi coach during a packed two days.
“The next game is the All Blacks so that’s the focus,” said Trimble. “Looking at that, and a couple areas of our game, building blocks, our exits, our defence, looking at errors we made on tour and what we need to get ironed out: There’s an awful lot squeezed into two day’s work.
“We looked at what they’re doing now, what they did a year ago. The All Blacks are a side who can play 10 different ways and that’s not easy to prepare for. It’s an even more daunting task whenever you play them twice.
“It didn’t surprise me, it didn’t surprise any of the boys, that there was a lot of homework. It’s important we go away and have thoughts on how we can beat them, how we can win that game. The All Blacks will play plenty of games between now and then so hopefully we’ll get an idea.” Two months of duties with Ulster come before all that.
Trimble and Rob Herring were named as co-captains for the seasons ahead just last week, though the winger will be equally concerned with simply holding down a spot in a back line that is now replete with enviable options.
Among them for the first time is Charlies Piutau, the former Blues and All Black master of many trades and positions who arrived in the summer via a one-season stint at Wasps with whom he made a marked impressions.
Trimble doesn’t agree with the argument Piutau will be all but guaranteed a spot but having the 24-year-old for the duration of a season that is likely to be again interrupted by a collection of international call-ups is a huge plus for the province.
“He’s pretty sharp alright. He’s been pestered by PR things, autographs and photos and this, that and the other. When we did a couple of Q&As with the new guys everybody wants to talk to Charles and there’s good reason for that. He’s an unbelievably talented player. He’s pretty special.”
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