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Arthur James O'Dea
Arthur James O'Dea

17.43 16 Mar 2019


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Former Leinster and Connacht man Andrew Dunne has been heavily critical of Joe Schmidt in light of Ireland's 25-7 defeat to Wales in this afternoon's Six Nations clash.

A defeat that sealed a Grand Slam triumph for Warren Gatland's side, Dunne, speaking live from the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, suggested that Ireland's players looked "punch-drunk in terms of what's being asked of them."

Identifying Schmidt's "restrictive game-plan" as being too physically demanding on Ireland's players, Dunne highlighted the inescapable "shelf life" that such a style possesses.

"I'd nearly absolve all the players of blame," Dunne stated in conversation with Off the Ball, "I think the coaching staff are far too oppressive, and far too dictatorial about the style of play."

"Schmidt seems to want to control 12 to 15 phases from the stand at all times, and he needs to reverse out of that fast.

"There are too much rucks, and I've said this for a long period of time.

"It seems all the international coaches, or certainly those in the Six Nations, went away and analysed what we did in 2018 and worked out pretty quickly that if you match us physically we don't have much else in the locker.

"Once we've been matched physically in the England game and the Wales game, we've been unmercifully hammered on both days.

"These are great players that are not being given enough scope to be creative, and that's the same in any walk of life.

"In business, if you've got high-level management that aren't allowed be creative or express themselves, it doesn't work."

Casting a cold eye over Ireland's tactical approach under Joe Schmidt, Dunne believes Ireland's players now look "completely drained, punch-drunk and tired trying to work a game-plan that is asking too much of them physically."

"I think Joe needs to lighten it up a bit, I think he needs to take the shackles off and allow them to be a bit more creative and expressive at a less labour-intensive game," Dunne argued.

"On reflection, that 2018 season was built on belligerent physicality, with some moments of creativity, and we were able to overpower teams physically in 2018 which facilitated creativity.

"Now that the teams are matching us physically, we don't seem to have that option of creativity and it's grim viewing, it's hard to watch great players humiliated walking off the field with their heads down, bruised and battered.

"If you run into a brick-wall 140-times, see how creative and accurate you're going to be the next week.

"I think we absolutely need to review the style with which we play and the style with which Joe is coaching us.

"He coached a Leinster side to great success playing a different style of rugby so he's capable of doing it, [but] I think he needs to go back and have a look at himself.

"If he persists with this plan, it ain't going to work in the World Cup. If you look at that game today, and watch great players like that looking so poor, there's something else going on underneath it.

"Maybe they don't believe in that game-plan themselves anymore, or maybe they're too knackered, or maybe they need to be freed up a little, and I think it's the third one."

Asking some serious questions of Joe Schmidt's management of the Irish team, Dunne was careful to clarify that he believes the New Zealander has the potential to bring Ireland in another direction tactically.

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Andy Dunne Irish Rugby Football Union Joe Schmidt Johne Murphy Six Nations

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