Though Smal was reluctant to give away the secrets of Irelandâ00s more streetwise approach in the scrum, he admitted to making just a few adjustments to this set-piece at yesterdayâ00s press conference in Juryâ00s Hotel, Cork.
â00Iâ00m satisfied with the progress but Iâ00m not happy yet - there are some goals weâ00re still looking at, areas where we have to improve if weâ00re to become a champion team," said Smal. â00Iâ00m just putting more emphasis on certain things. Theyâ00re used to scrummaging in a certain way. You try to change things slowly but surely. You don't have much time with a national team - you can only change things a little bit at a time, maybe look at changing certain systems.
As Springboksâ00 forwards coach (2004 to 2007), Smal played a major part in bringing South Africa to World Cup glory in France 14 months ago. He was brought onto Declan Kidneyâ00s coaching ticket last summer and admits to seeing many similarities between both country's approach to rugby.
Working with an Irish pack that currently contains six Munster players, he has already expressed his admiration for Paul Oâ00Connell, describing the Heineken Cup winning captain as a â00machineâ0.
â00Irish rugby is very like South Africa in that respect, a huge emphasis on forward play, thatâ00s been my experience anyway,â0 said Smal. â00What we would like to see is the guys expanding their game a little bit. Weâ00re looking at a couple of things to do that. Every game we play is a new experience for us all, especially for the coaching staff. Itâ00s good to see how the players react in different situations, and we all learn from that.
Meanwhile, manager Paul McNaughton yesterday defended Ronan Oâ00Gara after the Munster man shipped some heavy criticism following Irelandâ00s 14-13 win over England last weekend.
The Ireland manager put Oâ00Garaâ00s off-colour kicking display down to a bad day at the office. Oâ00Gara missed four shots from six on goal but kept a cool head when nailing a vital penalty nine minutes from time. Even though England fashioned a late, converted try, O'Gara's pressure kick proved invaluable in Ireland's gritty one point win over their arch-rivals.
McNaughton described how Oâ00Gara stood up before his team-mates in the dressingroom after a fiercely physical contest, apologising for his off-colour kicking display at GAA headquarters. However, McNaughton stood by Irelandâ00s record points scorer, declaring itâ00s business as usual with Oâ00Gara as Ireland begin preparations to their next Six Nations clash with Scotland on Saturday week.
â00Was it just one of those games? Absolutely,â0 said McNaughton. â00Ronanâ00s still fit and strong. He had a bad day and he was first to stand up in the dressing-room afterwards to apologise to the guys. Itâ00s business as usual with Ronan. I donâ00t think anybody in the management or the players have any doubt that, when we really need Ronan, heâ00ll be there.â0
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney had hoped to take his squad for a training session at his alma Mater, PBC yesterday (Wednesday), but wintry conditions forced them indoors for a session at UCCâ00s Mardyke Arena.