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Joe Schmidt revisits decision to omit Johnny Sexton from Japan game


In the aftermath of Ireland's Rugby World Cup disappointment, Joe Schmidt revisited his decision not to play Johnny Sexton in the crucial pool game against the hosts Japan. 

One can assume with some certainty that Joe Schmidt has given plenty of consideration to what happened Ireland as they came undone against Japan in the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup.

A surprising defeat that ultimately placed Ireland in direct opposition with the All Blacks at the quarter-final stage, the former Irish head coach has allowed himself the torment of retrospectively considering what he could have done differently.

"When we went up 12-3," he admitted in conversation with Off the Ball, "I think there was an expectation of our players that we've just got to keep ticking over here.

"We just allowed ourselves to taper a little bit and the margins are fairly fine. In front of their home crowd, with any sort of latitude they were given, Japan made the most of it."

Notably, with a convincing defeat of Scotland carried out in the opening game, Joe Schmidt opted to rest Ireland's usual out-half, Johnny Sexton.

"The problem was that we felt that he may then injure himself," explained Schmidt of his decision to leave the Leinster man out. "It was tenuous.

"If we'd played him against Japan and he'd done damage, and couldn't play against Russia, Samoa or potentially a World Cup quarter-final ... I'm not sure that I'd do anything differently."

The performance of Sexton's replacement Jack Carty didn't overly haunt Schmidt either.

"Jack Carty had impressed us and starting the game really well," he recalled. "The way we wanted to play the game suited the way Jack played, and it looked like we'd been vindicated."

Yet, whereas Carty could manage a decent imitation of Johnny Sexton's skills set, the absence of the latter's experience ultimately told.

"That might be right," admitted Schmidt when questioned on the disastrous impact Sexton's absence had on the leadership capabilities within the team. "Johnny was a very important cog for us in the leadership team.

"[At out-half] it is hard to get away from leadership responsibility."

You can watch Joe Schmidt in full conversation with Off the Ball here

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Ireland Irish Rugby Football Union Japan Joe Schmidt Johnny Sexton Rugby World Cup Six Nations

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