Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has described finalising his World Cup squad as the worst couple of days of his career.
Schmidt, who is set to name Ireland 31-man squad on Monday, made the sweeping statement after his team’s 22-17 win against an under-strength Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
The 53-year-old New Zealander said he faced a ‘horrible couple of days’ when he will be forced to sit down with his fellow selectors to decide on his final 31-man squad. Schmidt added he hopes he gets the balance of the squad right this time, admitting he failed to do so four years ago for the 2015 World Cup.
‘I think it’s a horrible couple of days, it’s probably the worst couple of days I’ve had in coaching, this time four years ago,’ Schmidt explained
‘I know how hard these players are working and how good they are, and how hard they’ve worked over a number of years because this is the pinnacle, this is what they’ve wanted to go after, this is what we’ve talked about last Christmas as being very much the sole focus of the year.
‘And for those players who miss out, it’s going to be a real body blow, and I’m incredibly conscious of that and I sympathise with it. But you can only take 31 and that’s the brutality of it, I think.’
Schmidt will step down as Ireland head coach – a position he has held since 2013 – after the World Cup. He guided Ireland to three Six Nations titles, a Grand Slam and a Triple Crown title as well as historic wins over world champion All Blacks.
Photo: Dave Hunt/EPA