O’Connell backs Schmidt to succeed with Ireland

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell says that he is confident that former Leinster coach Joe Schmidt will have no trouble adjusting to the international scene in his new role as Ireland head coach.

Schmidt led the Irish province to Heineken Cup glory twice but now has the challenge of guiding Ireland’s fortunes after succeeding Declan Kidney on a three-year contract encompassing the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

His first games in charge of Ireland come in a November home series where southern hemisphere nations Samoa, Australia and world champions New Zealand are set to provide stiff opposition.

“Any time you work with someone new and as successful a coach as Joe Schmidt, it is always a good thing,” former Ireland and British and Irish Lions captain O’Connell told reporters on Monday.

“We’ve only had a small number of sessions with him but they have been really enjoyable and stimulating.

“Joe has a tried and trusted way of running his coaching staff and running the teams he coaches, and you look at the success he has had with Leinster over the last number of years and it is hard not to trust that.”

Meanwhile Schmidt said he didn’t under-estimate the scale of his new job.

“I know the Guinness Series is only weeks away now and those weeks tend to go very quickly when you are watching a lot of rugby and a lot of footage.

“There are obviously challenges to build strength and depth in a number of positions. Some of those positions are well known, but right from the back to the front of the team you want to build strength in depth.”

Schmidt added: “We found out last season that you are only a few injuries away from being made a little bit vulnerable, so we have got to try to build that depth.

“If we can build that, it will give us a little bit more stability going forward, and we can be a little bit more regular with our team performance.

“Hopefully, we can gain the consistency that enables us to be really competitive, no matter who we have available to us,” said Schmidt, who in the new year will look to improve on a Six Nations performance that saw Ireland fail to win another game after beating champions Wales in the opening round.

“Coming from 33 games a season (with Leinster) to 10 maximum (with Ireland) and all 10 of them are effectively finals, you don’t do anything other than pick your top side.

“We’ve tried to kind of learn a bit more about the experienced guys in this camp, with a sprinkling of younger guys, and we’ve also spoken to a number of younger players and given them the encouragement that we are watching them and we are hoping they continue to develop.

“You are always learning about players and about what is best for them and their preparation, and it is the same for players. They are always learning and tweaking things.”

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