Luke Fitzgerald Gives His Verdict On The Joe Schmidt Factor

The Joe Schmidt factor could be key for New Zealand ahead of their Rugby World Cup Quarter-Final this Saturday against Ireland.

That’s according to former Ireland Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald knows a thing or two about Schmidt having played for him at both Leinster and Ireland.

Schmidt was the Irish coach for six years from 2013 to 2019 in what was a golden era for Irish rugby. Now, Schmidt is one of the men on the New Zealand coaching staff charged with bringing about Ireland’s demise.

Fitzgerald gave us fascinating insight into the impact that Joe Schmidt’s insider knowledge could have on this game.

The former Leinster winger/full-back also outlined how New Zealand will try to attack this Ireland defence and the danger men that the All Blacks possess.

The Joe Schmidt Factor

He could be really key, not least in terms of doing research on the opposition. I cannot think of a better guy to do that. I have yet to see someone who can come up with a game plan to nullify and to attack areas where other teams are weak, other than Joe Schmidt.

The guy has forgotten more about rugby than most people ever knew. He is just an absolute brainbox. So, they have some serious IP behind them. He is a serious addition to the NZ coaching staff. And key to bringing the game to places where New Zealand are strong versus where Ireland might see some gaps.

Recipe To Success For The All Blacks

They have to kick really well. The Irish back three might have a few guys out. They will attack Ireland in the air which is something Joe Schmidt is really good at. The ruck will also be a key thing particularly with Ireland.

If you look back at their games with Ireland, if they are not physical with Ireland there and they don’t match them or slow down the ball, Ireland will be very difficult to contain and will score tries against the All Blacks. The NZ defence can be broken down; it is not as stingy as some of the great teams of the past. 

Ireland will also look to their own kicking game and attack them in the air. They have some good exponents in Sexton, Murray and Gibson Park and Mack Hansen.

New Zealand’s Danger Men

I am always worried about Beauden Barrett. At the height of his powers, before he went to Japan for his sabbatical he was up there in my pantheon of greats. He was always involved in every great moment that happened for the All Blacks either in defence or attack.

He seemed more in tune with the game than anyone I have ever seen bar Richie McCaw. I hold him in very high esteem.

Beauden Barrett is the guy who will set the tempo for this New Zealand team. By looking to shut him down, putting pressure on him and squeezing him out of the game, that would go a long way to nullifying that threat. 

In the pack it has got to be Ardie Savea. He is the heartbeat of that team. Great carrier of the ball, great on the ground, fearless, super fit. If we can stop him close to the gain line and half protect Johnny Sexton from him that would be good.

Lastly Aaron Smith. One of my favourite players of all time. He sets the tempo of that New Zealand team. If they are playing well he is dictating, making all the decisions on the fly. His brain seems to work at a similar pace to Johnny Sexton’s. The amount of good decisions he makes, with so little time, are incredible.

Ireland Can Expose Damian McKenzie In The Air

Damian McKenzie is an excellent rugby player; but won’t start. And there’s aspects of his game you can expose. If you had him in the back though you’d absolutely be putting up high balls on him.

Ireland Won’t Be Thinking Beyond The All Blacks For Now

Ireland won’t be thinking that far ahead. The quarter final is more than enough to occupy their minds. They have more than enough on their plate.

But Wales always seem to be able to deliver with Gatland on the big stage. They have really good rugby players, especially at nine and ten. Lots of experience.

Ireland should have the advantage though, they are more familiar with that Welsh team. Argentina always poses problems with threats out wide. But Ireland should be able to beat both those sides.

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