Ireland can break hoodoo – Schmidt

Date published: March 10 2014

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt believes sports psychologist Enda McNulty can help his side beat France in Paris on Saturday.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt believes sports psychologist Enda McNulty can help his side beat France in Paris on Saturday.

McNulty, a former Armagh Gaelic Football stalwart, has been part of Ireland's backroom staff since former coach Decland Kidney appointed him in 2013 and Schmidt has retained his services since replacing Kidney last summer.

And Schmidt is confident McNulty's “mind fitness” work can help Ireland to only their second triumph in France in 43 years, and their first Six Nations title since 2009.

“I'm not smart enough to be a sports psychologist, so I rely on other people doing the mind fitness,” Schmidt to PA Sport.

“And Enda McNulty has been a good addition over the last little while, from before my time, to help guys stay on track and make sure that they are just process-focused and just game-focused.”

Ireland go into the clash with France knowing that any margin of victory over les Bleus on Saturday should be enough for them to win the Six Nations as their plus-81 points difference will be difficult to for England – who face bottom-placed Italy in Rome on Saturday – to overhaul.

Their last victory over France came in 2000 when veteran centre and new Test appearance world-record holder Brian O'Driscoll scored a stunning hat-trick.

Schmidt hopes his experiences as backs coach at Top 14 outfit Clermont Auvergne between 2007 and 2010 can help shape Ireland's tacticts when they face France on Saturday.

Clermont claimed their first Top 14 league title in 11 final appearances in 2010 and Schmidt left them shortly afterwards to take up the role as head coach at Leinster.

Losing 10 finals had Clermont's fans talking of a curse that damned the club in their bid to win the Top 14 title. Schmidt is not a believer in “superstition” and with McNulty's assistance hopes to now help Ireland overcome their Parisian hurdle.

“Thankfully in my last year (at Clermont) we won the Bouclier de Brennus, but one of the things that they talked often about in France is this 'malediction', this bad luck that was always going to haunt the Clermont team whenever they got to a final,” added Schmidt.

“And that's why they didn't win 10 of them before they did.

“I'm not a big believer in superstition.

“I would describe it as the 'pensee de parasite', it's a parasite of thinking that is a distraction, and it erodes the logical mainstream thinking about what you actually need to deliver on the field.

“I don't think we can get too distracted by the history or by the results, or by the points differential.

“Regardless of what does happen we will be very much focused on trying to put in the best performance we can.
“To be honest we could go to Paris and finish third.

“But if we can win a Six Nations having gone away to England and France, that would be a bit special.”