Joe Schmidt strongly defended his attacking blueprint after recent criticism about Ireland’s style of play.
Ireland will tee up an all-out assault on a first Grand Slam in nine years if they beat Scotland in Saturday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash in Dublin.
Warren Gatland offered a droll apology for previously criticising counterpart Schmidt’s attacking style after Ireland’s 37-27 win over Wales two weeks ago, sarcastically branding the Irish performance that day “so exciting”.
Several columnists have even suggested Ireland’s gain-line power against Wales paid homage to ‘Warrenball’, the term Brian Smith coined to describe Gatland’s hugely successful but no-holds barred power game.
Gatland has always bristled against that term, and Schmidt has picked up that theme in insisting Ireland’s patterns of play are not limited.
When asked if Ireland would employ a direct style against Scotland, Schmidt replied: “It’s ironic you say that, because I’d probably challenge people to do a little bit more homework.
“I think there was some really good tight play against Wales and some stuff that went through the middle, but there was some stuff down the edges as well.
“Johnny Sexton’s pass for Jacob Stockdale’s try, that’s still one of the best passes you’d see in world rugby. We’ve got to keep that variety to our game.”
See off the Scots and Ireland will chase just their third-ever Grand Slam when they England at Twickenham on Saturday, March 17.
Garry Ringrose will start at outside centre to offset long-term injuries to midfielders Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne.
Munster centre Farrell certainly wielded the kind of gainline bludgeon that typified Gatland’s most successful teams, echoing the impact of former Wales battering ram Jamie Roberts, when Ireland overwhelmed Wales in Dublin.
Former Leinster boss Schmidt clearly expanded Ireland’s gameplan in a busy autumn schedule however, where scrum-half Conor Murray often appeared in the fly-half channels, allowing Sexton to direct play from wider areas.
And now Schmidt has hit back at suggestions that Ireland are not seeking expansive play, insisting his side have the capability for an all-court approach.
“At this stage we’ve probably made the third most offloads: it’s an area where people would love to beat us with a stick, and it’s probably overlooked by people that there is some continuity to our play,” said Schmidt.
“Those sorts of things should allow us the variety to try to keep a sort of balance in what we’re doing to attack them.
“And then obviously defensively we’re going to have to link up very well.”