Joe Schmidt ready to roll up sleeves while the big guns get rest and relaxation

Joe Schmidt is hoping Ireland’s long lead-in to their final pool game will help his team put in the performance tomorrow that will take them into the World Cup quarter-finals.

Joe Schmidt ready to roll up sleeves while the big guns get rest and relaxation

Joe Schmidt is hoping Ireland’s long lead-in to their final pool game will help his team put in the performance tomorrow that will take them into the World Cup quarter-finals.

Yet he is also wary of the advantage the tournament’s big guns may get from some unexpected rest this weekend.

Ireland’s head coach was doing his level best to avoid controversy yesterday as the World Cup descended into chaos in anticipation of the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis to Japan’s shores tomorrow.

With the super typhoon’s wide area of impact expected to make landfall along a sizeable stretch of the southern coastline of Japan’s biggest island Honshu tomorrow, potentially engulfing its largest cities Tokyo and Yokohama and beyond, World Rugby and the local organising committee announced yesterday at a specially convened media conference in the capital that it was cancelling the pool matches between England and France in Pool C and New Zealand and Italy in Pool B.

Ireland’s Pool A clash with Samoa will go ahead in the western city of Fukuoka on Kyushu Island following a change of approach from Hagibis, which is being described as the strongest of this season’s typhoons.

Initially the point of impact, Fukuoka, and Ireland’s must-win game are in the clear and were given the green light by tournament organisers, though the potentially pivotal game in the same pool, between hosts Japan and Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday still hangs in the balance.

Like the games cancelled for tomorrow, a calling off for Japan-Scotland, which will be decided on Sunday morning, will mean it is declared a scoreless draw and both sides will get two match points each.

With Japan leading Pool A on 14 points, three clear of Ireland and four ahead of the Scots, any decision of whether to play on a day after the brunt of the storm passes through is set to be of huge importance to the Irish camp if they fail to get the five match points that will guarantee their progress to the last eight and a potential quarter-final with either the All Blacks or South Africa.

Yet while Ireland will tomorrow be busting a gut to finish the job they should have completed much earlier in the pool stage but for their shock defeat to Japan, both the defending champions and the Springboks will be enjoying an extended break ahead of the knockout stages.

Rassie Erasmus’s Boks completed their pool schedule with a 66-7 over Canada in Kobe on Tuesday to seal a runner-up finish behind New Zealand in Pool B, with the All Blacks’ enforced weekend off meaning they will go into their quarter-final a week tomorrow, on October 19, on the back of a two-week break since their 71-9 triumph over Namibia last Sunday, though there was bitterness for Italy.

Conor O’Shea’s side had been due to face the All Blacks in the City of Toyota Stadium tomorrow with a chance of staging an upset that would see them leapfrog South Africa into the quarters. With a stroke of a World Rugby pen, the tournament has seen the last of Azzurri warhorses Sergio Parisse, Leonardo Ghiraldini, and Alessandro Zanni.

England and France are also through and putting their feet up having avoided Le Crunch in Yokohama on Saturday night.

Although Ireland boss Schmidt sidestepped the opportunity to say whether the tournament had ceased to operate on a level playing field when asked yesterday as he named his squad to face Samoa, he could not help but agree a weekend off was preferable to a physical workout against pool rivals.

“When you’ve had a long lead-in like we’ve had and we’ve had some games concertinaed together quite closely, it’s always an advantage to get a longer lead-in. That would be my personal opinion,” said Schmidt.

I did read a little bit on (England head coach) Eddie Jones. He looked fairly disappointed that he was going to head off on a mini-camp and train on the Saturday and have a few beers.

“So while they’re doing that we’ll be rolling our sleeves up trying to combat a Samoa side that has heaps of talent and will be inevitably physical.”

On the first point, that the World Cup is no longer being contested on a level playing field because of those extended breaks for the tournament big guns, Schmidt deflected his answer back to Ireland’s own schedule that had preceded the current nine-day turnaround with their first three games compressed between September 22 and October 3.

“It probably didn’t suit us that we had three games in 11 days. I think one of the things that gives us confidence, just to answer that question, is a week where we get three trainings and we can get a bit of rhythm into a game because once you hit your rhythm I think that’s when we are at our best. We would say that we’ve managed to get a good lead-in to this one and that will hopefully give us the confidence to go into Samoa and do a good job. We’ll maybe get, depending on what we can manage to do this weekend if we do qualify, we’ll get maybe two or three trainings in, depending on how soon we can get up to Tokyo if we qualify because those logistics become a little bit of an issue now as well, particularly if there is damage or trains aren’t running or airports are affected. It has thrown things up in the air a little bit.”

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