I have always loved Schmidt, couldn’t get rid of Kidney fast enough, he was totally out of his depth and wrecking the Irish team - so was delighted to get an adult in the room.
And things went swimmingly for a while, but over time I developed 2 sneaking reservations about Irish teams under him - firstly they are very structured, to the point of inflexibility. And secondly, they are inefficient. The implications of this are that while we’re fine when our gameplan is working, we struggle badly to adapt if it is countered by a good opposition side - and we often win games narrowly that we should win by wide margins, or scrape through / lose games we should have won, through not getting points on the board during periods of dominance.
After 2018 these reservations had subsided, but I have to say they’re back with a vengeance after this tournament - plus 2 more: inflexibility in selections for one, and the biggest concern of all, a frightening lack of introspection.
On the selections, not just the half-backs, but also Aki (who is one of my favourite players) was seriously out of sorts, while C Farrell, T Farrell, McCloskey and even Scannell are all having good seasons, POM was cr@p while Ruddock has been brilliant this season etc. And btw, the theory that Ireland are focusing on the RWC and didn’t care about the 6N, apart from being ridiculous on its face, isn’t supported by the selections - if we didn’t care, then there wouldn’t have been a problem with playing Cooney and Carty and letting Murray and Sexton rehab and take it easy.
The bigger concern I have right now, after reading reports on the post-match interviews is the seeming lack of soul-searching - the weather, the roof, the ref, the Irish press for printing the team a day early, a ‘bug’ - all at fault, but not a suggestion that there was anything wrong with the coaches. And btw the Ireland team will ‘definitely’ show up in Japan. So that’s all right.
Maybe they are absolutely going back to the drawing board, with no sacred cows etc etc but I have been wondering if Schmidt still has the fight in him. He’s packing it in after the WC, and retiring as far as we know - does he have the hunger any more? The team looked like anything but a team driven by the Schmidt of old. Has there been a shift in dynamic due to the announcement of his retirement / replacement by Farrell? Knowing that your current boss is out the door soon, and his current second in command is your new boss - it certainly changes something, and Farrell is quite a dominant character.
I don’t know what the truth is, but I have to say I’m pretty shaken after seeing the wheels come off so badly!