Joe Schmidt cautions on Puma provocation

Joe Schmidt will urge his players to turn the other cheek against Argentina tomorrow if Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final opponents attempt the types of provocation that saw Seán O’Brien banned for striking France’s Pascal Pape.

The Ireland head coach kept his counsel on Pape’s involvement in the disciplinary process last Tuesday that saw O’Brien suspended for tomorrow’s knockout clash with the Pumas.

The lock sent in testimony that did the Ireland flanker no favours as he described injuries sustained in the flashpoint as the back-rower lashed out after being held off the ball at a ruck, despite the fact Pape completed another 72 minutes of France’s 24-9 Pool D defeat.

Yet whatever the circumstances, Schmidt does not want to see a repeat of O’Brien’s first-minute actions, instead pointing to the same player’s reaction to similar provocation when Pape tried to knock him off balance as the Irishman was preparing to receive a pass in the build-up to Rob Kearney’s opening try.

“What you hope to do is learn from experiences. You learn from experiences win, lose or draw and hopefully we’ve learnt a lesson from that,” Schmidt said yesterday of O’Brien’s misdemeanour.

“You know, the fact the same player did it in the 49th minute adds to our frustration and Seán didn’t react that time. Probably because we were only a few metres out from the line; he loaded himself to carry the next ball and did it incredibly well. The players are aware of that bit of footage and that reaction, as positive as it was, is a lot more productive than the one in those first few seconds.”

Pape’s evidence given to the independent judicial officer during a near seven-hour hearing in London on Tuesday, stated he had collapsed to the ground “and couldn’t breathe any more. All along the game I felt a violent pain in the area where I had been beaten.”

Schmidt yesterday said: “I’m not really prepared to comment too much on it. It’s something that is now in the past, it took a lot of time preparing and going through that process.

“There’s obviously disappointing facets of it for us and, you know, we knew that they would come out and that they’d try to physically take it to us, to try and frustrate us and I think some of the intimidation prior to the game around Johnny (Sexton) was... Schmidt was yesterday able to name Sexton at fly-half, saying he was confident his playmaker would not be a risk having suffered an adductor strain last Sunday.

It his back row, now missing O’Brien as well as the injured Peter O’Mahony, that remained the chief concern although he backed the incoming Jordi Murphy at blindside flanker and Chris Henry at openside to do just as effective a job alongside captain Jamie Heaslip in a potentially ferocious breakdown battle.

“Chris has played right through a full Six Nations with us (in 2014) and played exceptionally well,” Schmidt said,.

“Jordi Murphy started at No.8 against England in the Six Nations.

“We have got confidence in those guys. Jamie has been involved in every game, he brings cohesion and the other two bring a bit of freshness. I have no doubt they bring vitality to our set piece and our broken play.”

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