Paul Wallace confident Ireland have adapted to the Joe Schmidt way
Paul Wallace says Ireland can build on their November lessons and compete for Six Nations honours.
Last Updated: 28/01/14 4:47pm
After beating Samoa they were soundly beaten by Australia - with Schmidt coming under fire for failing to get his side up for the Wallabies.
A week later and it was a different story. Yes, they may have lost but they were 20 seconds away from beating New Zealand for the first time in their history.
They played with a precision and a power that few teams would be able to live with and former Ireland prop Paul Wallace is hoping that they can keep that intensity up for the full 80 minutes when they start their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on Sunday.
"The big thing for Ireland is to show consistency," Wallace told skysports.com
"They showed in the first 40 minutes against the All Blacks in November that they can take on and dominate any side in the world. Even though they did not beat either New Zealand or Australia, the long term prospect is really positive because by the time the November Tests were over, defensively and offensively, the whole team had adapted to the Schmidt way of training and playing.
"The strength in depth that he has created is also going to be a key factor for Ireland. In the front row they have the likes of Martin Moore coming through very well at tight head. Then you have you have David Kilcoyne and Jack McGrath so they have a lot of front row options which should give Ireland's bench more of an impact.
"I am feeling very confident under Schmidt - he is the best coach around and his style of play really suits Ireland. They are not the biggest team around but they like to move the ball around very well."
Wallace has some concerns over the loss of flanker Sean O'Brien who has been Ireland's most potent ball carrier and has helped get Ireland on the front foot.
He added: "O'Brien is a huge loss for Ireland - he brings such a physical presence and his go-forward is a key aspect to their game. It will be interesting to see who comes in for him.
"Chris Henry is who everyone is talking about, but don't rule out Tommy O'Donnell - he has been outstanding for Munster and has that physical presence and dynamism - very similar to O'Brien.
"With O'Brien out, the return of Cian Healy becomes even more important as he is another big ball carrier for Ireland and is very dynamic in that area."
Wallace has no such concerns over fly-half Jonny Sexton who has not had the best of seasons since moving from Leinster to Racing Metro.
"Sexton's form has come in for some scrutiny but I have no concerns about him at all," added Wallace.
"Racing Metro do play a different style of game - they are more set-piece focused and kick for territory. Sexton will be relishing getting back under Schmidt and back to that running game where he takes the ball right up to the gain line and looks for the wide pass."
Wallace is confident ahead of Ireland's Six Nations campaign and says it is crucial that they get off to a good start before heading off to some difficult away fixtures.
"Ireland will be right up there however their home game against Wales will be pivotal as to how they go. If they can get a win at home against Wales then I can definitely see a Six Nations title win for Ireland.
"I cannot see them doing a Grand Slam though as their biggest hurdles are England and France away. France away seems to be the bogey fixture for Ireland and England away at Twickenham is a tough ask too.
"This year it is a very open Six Nations with no real favourites, Wales may have a slight edge but there is no reason why Ireland cannot top the table in 2014."