Joe Schmidt has revealed that he asked for Ireland’s World Cup game with Samoa last month to be blown up early due to safety concerns about the pitch in Fukuoka. 


Writing in his newly-published autobiography, Ordinary Joe, the now-former Ireland coach reviewed the 2019 World Cup in diary format and noted how he was worried about the safety of his players during the 47-5 win that secured them second place in their pool. 

“One concern as the match continued was player safety, with the pitch lifting up in places and uneven in others,” he wrote. 

“Fine gravel was seeping up through the seams and a number of players finished the game with abrasions. We discussed the state of the pitch in the coaches’ box and sent a message to (Ireland team manager) Paul Dean to request that the match be called off early.

“Deano approached the match manager and a message was sent on to the referee, via the fourth official. The referee chose to continue but chatting to the Samoans and our players later, we thought it was incredible that two teams at rugby’s premier tournament had to play on a pitch as badly cobbled together as that one.”

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Schmidt, who has now stepped away from the Ireland job he inherited from Declan Kidney in 2013, also took issue with the red card given to Bundee Aki in that pool game which resulted in his suspension for the lost quarter-final versus New Zealand. “We considered what mitigating factors could have been taken into account but weren’t.

“In the high tackle framework there are five mitigating factors, and we felt that one of those – reactionary tackle – applied. We had timed it: there was just a fifth of a second between UJ Seuteni grabbing the ball and the contact with Bundee, making it more an unplanned collision than a tackle…

“There has been a guilty-until-proven-innocent climate to all of the disciplinary hearings that I have prepared for or attended, and the feedback from Bundee’s hearing was no different… the judiciary dismissed the 0.2-second reaction time as a mitigating factor and issued a six-week suspension, reduced by half.”


Schmidt added that the Aki sanction quickly had a negative impact in their quarter-final as Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw both went low in the tackle on Ardie Savea and the clash of heads caused both of them to spend time in the blood bin, especially Ringrose who needed 18 stitches. 

“This is one of the reasons that World Rugby need to keep their eyes open. We had a low-tackle focus after Bundee’s red card, but it contributed to two head injuries in one play.

“In the past, two-man tackles would tend to have one player going high and one low, but that’s now a risk that has potential red-card consequences if you get it wrong.” 

WATCH: RugbyPass looks back on some of our favourite moments with the fans at the World Cup in Japan

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