Schmidt: Home form key for Ireland's title hopes
January 22, 2014
Paul O'Connell and Schmidt will hope Ireland pick up where they left off last autumn © Getty Images
Joe Schmidt has set his Ireland side the target of winning all three matches in Dublin to launch a Six Nations title challenge.
During Ireland's last Test match in Dublin they came agonisingly close to denying New Zealand their unbeaten season, only for their brave stand to be broken by the All Blacks with the clock in the red. But Schmidt is confident his side can carry the form than ran the world champions so close into the Six Nations.
The opening two rounds will test Schmidt's side's resilience - with the visits of Scotland and defending champions Wales to Dublin within just six days. The former Leinster boss believes setting down an early marker at the Aviva Stadium - and winning their fourth round match at at home to Italy - and a good result on the road could catapult them into title contention.
"If we could defend the Aviva that would be great," said Schmidt.
"If we manage an away victory against either England or France as well, then that would put us in the mix for a shot at being in the top two.
"That would be a fantastic achievement given where we've come from, but that's not to say that's our clear expectation. We know we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us.
"The six-day turnaround from Scotland to Wales is a really big ask. There's nothing we can do about that and you just have to get on with it, just like you can't control the calls of a referee.
"But it's unfortunate that we're not going to get a great run-in to a game against a great team like Wales, especially after facing a combative outfit like Scotland."
Schmidt admits the memory of the New Zealand game is one which has been hard to shake off but that he and his players had moved on from their autumn heartbreak.
"We managed to move past it pretty quickly when we met up again ahead of Christmas," said Schmidt.
"It's been a bit of a recurring nightmare for me, however, because it's the first time I've had this experience as a national coach."
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