Joe Schmidt On His Biggest Mistake In 2019 That May Have Led To Ireland’s World Cup Downfall

My bad.

Former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has admitted he made a massive mistake in 2019 that may have led to Ireland’s disappointing showing at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The men in green enjoyed an incredible 2018, winning a Grand Slam, as well as securing a series win over Australia and beating the All Blacks in Dublin. But 2019 kicked off with a humiliating defeat to England at home and ended in a battering at the hands of New Zealand in Japan.

And Schmidt feels his approach to the year might have contributed to that. He says, in the beginning, he put far too much emphasis on the World Cup and told the players to essentially forget about the Six Nations because they had already “won three of the last five” championships and “ticked all the boxes” required.

Speaking at an event in the University of Limerick Concert Hall to promote his new book ‘Ordinary Joe’, Schmidt said he made the World Cup “bigger than it needed to be.”

“I think in the lead up to the England game we were actually working really hard looking further ahead,” Schmidt said.

“And it’s something that I’ve been pretty open about. I don’t think I got that right. I think right from this time last year when I said to them look ‘we’ve won three of the last five Six Nations, we don’t need another Six Nations, we’ve got a Grand Slam, we’ve ticked all those boxes – it’s all about the World Cup now’

“And I think maybe I did contribute to the extra tension, the extra anxiety because I said don’t worry about the Six Nations. It’s huge, the Six Nations. I love the competition. I think it’s massive.

“But I said ‘look we’ve [won] three out of the last five, we just really need to make sure we do everything we can to be ready for the World Cup. And so maybe I made the World Cup bigger than it needed to be because the bigger the competition – the more anxiety that’s likely to exist.

“And I think that doesn’t help.”

Schmidt said Ireland tend to “periodise’ their training and that it’s impossible to be constantly at a high level.

“So the week leading into the England game we’d actually worked really hard. We were in Portugal, we worked really hard but we were a little bit flat and I tried to take responsibility for that in the media,” Schmidt added

“And when the boys came to me and said ‘can you ease-off the backend of the week’ it was something I’d planned to do anyway because we had two more games against Wales to come and then we were into the World Cup.

“What the plan was is you work really hard, you get a level of fitness, a level of preparedness and when you’re working really hard you taper a little bit – that’s what periodised training is. You can’t constantly be at a really high level.

“You’ve got to be able to taper a bit to get to those high levels.”

Joe Schmidt’s new book ‘Ordinary Joe’ is available now in all good bookstores.