Schmidt backed to fix Ireland’s problems

Joe Schmidt will put things right this week and send out an Ireland side on Sunday to face world champions New Zealand that is unrecognisable from the one that was outplayed by Australia last weekend, Irish rugby legend Ronnie Dawson has said.

The 81-year-old former Irish hooker — who captained the British and Irish Lions in six Tests, a record he jointly holds with former England skipper Martin Johnson — said Schmidt was too good a coach not to be able to fix areas where the Irish were lacking in last Saturday’s 32-15 defeat.

Schmidt, who guided Irish province Leinster to two European Cups, was appointed after the sacking of Declan Kidney earlier this year following a disappointing Six Nations campaign.

However, Dawson — who was also Ireland’s first ever coach when he was appointed in 1969 — admitted there was much to be improved on if the Irish are to beat the All Blacks for the first time and prevent them becoming the first team in the professional era to win all their Tests in a calendar year.

“I was disappointed not only by the result but also by the manner in which the Irish team played,” a fit and sprightly Dawson told AFP at a ceremony where he was inducted, along with among others Scotland’s Gavin Hastings and former Wallaby scrum-half George Gregan, into the International Rugby Board’s Hall of Fame in Dublin.

“There were areas where they should have been much better, especially the skill factor and their defence.

“I think for things to go better on Sunday, all the basics of the game have to be executed in a much better manner and if they manage that then they can at least equal the All Blacks there.”

Dawson, who when he captained the Lions on their 1959 tour to Australia, New Zealand and Canada had to suspend his studying for a degree in architecture as he was away for five months — a stark contrast to the professional era — said Schmidt would have seen the same weaknesses he had.

“Joe Schmidt is an excellent coach and rugby man and he will certainly know what is required,” said Dawson.

“He is more than capable of setting things right in a week and steering the Irish on a good course.

“If he manages that well it will be up to the players then but miracles do happen.”

Dawson, who won 27 caps for Ireland, captaining them in 11 Tests before retiring from international rugby in 1965, said Schmidt will also change the mentality surrounding the Irish national side, expressly the excuse for some poor results as being down to a slow process in changing personnel.

“We have been a side in transition for too long,” he said.

“There are a lot of excellent players reaching the end and a lot of young players who are not being called up but are getting experience with their provinces.

“Now, though, is time to change the guard.

“There is no reason why the national side shouldn’t become a real force. After all, Irish provinces have been performing brilliantly in the European Cup on a consistent basis. It is now a case of transferring that form to the international stage.”

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