Joe Schmidt: Ireland just want to finish the best they can to Six Nations Championship

Ireland skipper Rory Best and head coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland skipper Rory Best and head coach Joe Schmidt
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There might still be a slender chance of Ireland retaining the Six Nations title on Saturday, but head coach Joe Schmidt just wants his side to finish this campaign “the best we can.”

Ireland picked up a try scoring bonus point in a 26-14 win over France in Dublin on Sunday as they rediscovered some of their 2018 form that saw them become ranked number two in the World.

But this year’s Six Nations Championship saw Ireland fail to find that form in the early stages, although they did have two away wins over Scotland and Italy following a home loss to England.

Ireland now go to Cardiff for a massive showdown against Wales, with their Celtic cousins chasing a first Grand Slam in seven years.

If Ireland were to beat Wales, they would go above them in the table, but it would also open the door for England to lift the title - they would need to lose to Scotland at Twickenham to had the trophy back to Irish skipper Rory Best.

Both Schmidt and Best will be involved in their last Six Nations Championship matches.

The New Zealander had already indicated his intention to stand down as head coach and return home after the World Cup.

Best announced on Saturday that he would almost certainly bring the curtain down on an illustrious career at the end of the World Cup.

The ideal scenario for both would be to finish with a victory over Wales, hope that Scotland could deliver a shock win over the English and snatch the Championship.

However, Schmidt is focusing on what he can control.

“We just want to finish as best we can in the Six Nations,” he said

“It’s less about where Wales are positioned, we know that if we can get a win, we’ll go past them on the ladder of the championship at the end of the day but at the same time it is just another game as boring as that sounds.

“In terms of a six-day turnaround, you can’t really think too much about championships or anything else, we just need to turn our attention to Wales and we’ll do that tomorrow (Monday) evening when we get back together in camp.

“It’s a very, very truncated week for us and very short preparation so it will be a lot less about Wales than it will be about us just trying to get ourselves organised and ready to go.”

Ireland can certainly go to Wales with confidence on the back of the win over France.

They had the bonus point bagged when Keith Earls raced away from a pre-planned move at a lineout.

Earlier Best, Jonathan Sexton and Jack Conan had crossed for tries.

There were two late tries for the French which took the gloss of the win, but Schmidt hailed the performance of his side overall.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen, in the last six years, a team control 40 minutes like we did that first-half.

“I think the French got knocked back early and it was hard for them to then get back on the front-foot, but part of the hardship was that we kept that pressure on. To keep that pressure on for the full 40 minutes spoke volumes for the intensity and about the energy that we brought to our game. And also the cohesion.

“I know we missed some opportunities, but Rory’s try was fantastic early in the game and for Johnny to score off a nice, crisp back play.

That gives confidence. We needed to get back on the front-foot. In six days time it becomes a whole different equation,” he added.