EX IRELAND AND Leinster wing Shane Horgan says that his former coach Joe Schmidt will depend on Ireland’s four provincial coaches to improve the national team.
Schmidt famously set a target of making Leinster the best passing side in Europe when he took over the job in 2010.
Now, after making the move to Lansdowne Road, he will be afforded less one-to-one time with individual players. That, Horgan says, is where the difficulty will lie in putting his stamp on the team.
“You are reliant on the [provincial] coaches to create a skill level that’s natural for the guys,” Horgan told TheScore.ie today.
“He’s only got a couple of weeks here and there and most of that time is built around analysing the opposition and putting a framework in place of how to play rugby and break down the opposition defence.
“If your skill level isn’t high enough, then no matter how much you analyse a team, that plan isn’t going to work. So you are reliant on the provinces to do their job pretty well.”
Image credit: Martin Joyce/Connacht Rugby.
It would appear that this view is one shared by Schmidt. On Tuesday, his successor in Leinster Matt O’Connor revealed that the Kiwi had convened a meeting between the five top coaches in Ireland – “Just Joe trying to get everyone on the same page”. And on Sunday, Connacht released the above image of Schmidt in very definite ‘hands-on coaching’ mode at the Sportsground.
So Schmidt has started early in attempting to offset the time he will be lacking. Speaking at the launch of RTE Television’s autumn schedule, Horgan says that the double Heineken Cup winner has the tactical brain to go along with his coaching ability, but also adds an important third factor to the mix; motivation.
“That bodes well for Ireland and it’s exactly what Joe Schmidt will want. You want players at a high skill level and then say, ‘give them to me’, then your job is to analyse the opposition, put in a baseline system. The other factor which I think Joe will be very good at is creating the environment where players want to play for Ireland.
“You know, you always want to play for Ireland, but the subsidiaries can be a pain in the arse at times. If you’re detailed in training camp the week before or two weeks, that can be a bit of a struggle especially for older players.
“Yeah, everyone loves playing for Ireland and playing the games, but the is stuff around it can grate. I think that’s one of the skills Warren Gatland has -while technically not a fundamentally brilliant coach – he can create an environment players enjoy and he gets the best out of them. We’ve heard over the last while that perhaps hasn’t been there with Ireland, but I think Joe can create that feeling.”
Tactically, Horgan is hoping that once the skill levels are up to scratch, Schmidt can turn the Leinster style green. Particularly, the will to counter-attack from deep.
“Results for me wouldn’t be a huge issue,” Horgan says of the upcoming November Tests against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.
“An upward curve [is more important]. I think a move away from the sort of rugby we saw at the end of the Six Nations, a more fluid style, exploiting the best of the players. What we’ll see is less regimented in terms of when you attack, when you defend and when you kick having analysed how they defend in certain areas and then attacking them no matter what, no matter where you are on the pitch.
“Now, if you look at Leinster in the past couple of years – and New Zealand do it a lot as well – very often a lot of their attacks come out of their own 22. The opposition back three drop back and that gives a lot of space to attack.
“It’s space you don’t have further up the field and I’d like to see Ireland go after that sort of space. Because very often, I thought, over the last couple of years it’s been pre-ordained box-kick; that’s the only way we’re getting out of the 22 and we’re doing that no matter what.
“I’d like to see a movement away from pre-programmed plan going through a game to reacting how the opposition defend.”
-Interview by Hugh O’Connell