Rugby World Cup 2015: Schmidt's Ireland strategy a risk says Kay

Ben Kay in action for England against France in the 2007 World Cup semi-final
Ben Kay helped England win the 2003 World Cup
Rugby World Cup
Hosts: England and Wales Dates: 18 September-31 October
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra, BBC Radio Wales and in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru and Radio Ulster plus live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website.

Ex-England star Ben Kay believes Joe Schmidt is taking a "risk" in focusing his Ireland team on peaking for their World Cup Pool D game against France.

World Cup winner Kay claims Ireland players have indicated that Schmidt has tailored the team's build-up with the 11 October contest in mind.

Ireland start their campaign against Canada next Saturday with Romania and Italy their other early rivals.

"That's a risky strategy if you can't get the confidence," said Kay.

Schmidt is aiming to guide the 2014 and 2015 Six Nations champions to their first World Cup semi-final and Kay says the Kiwi is taking a calculated gamble with his team's preparations.

After an impressive opening warm-up win over an under-strength Wales on 8 August, the Irish have struggled in their most recent games as a home defeat by Wales was followed by another loss against England at Twickenham.

Paul O'Connell is applauded by England players as he walks off the field following Ireland's recent defeat at Twickenham
Paul O'Connell and his Ireland team-mates have lost their two most recent games

Ireland's form in those games has led to suggestions that Schmidt is deliberately focusing on having his team in peak form for a potential pool decider against the French in Cardiff.

"Because their first World Cup game is against Canada - they haven't performed particularly well - then Romania, Ireland probably have the easiest draw," added 2003 World Cup winner Kay.

"So they've got that build-up then they have a tougher game against Italy and the big one against France at the end.

"Speaking to people around the squad they are saying that their build-up has been slightly different in that they are looking to peak slightly later in the tournament."

Former Bay of Plenty coach Schmidt created a feared attacking arsenal as Leinster dominated the European scene, but has reined in that style at Test level.

Kay believes the Ireland boss has simply reacted to resources, but pinpointed Ireland's suffocating style as being potentially hugely profitable in high-pressure World Cup contests.

"Joe Schmidt is tactically one of the best coaches in the world though and always brings the best out of the squad," added Kay.

Ireland's World Cup pool games
Saturday, 19 Sept, 14:30 BST: Ireland v Canada, Millennium Stadium
Sunday, 27 Sept, 16:45 BST: Ireland v Romania, Wembley Stadium
Sunday, 4 Oct, 16:45 BST: Ireland v Italy, Olympic Stadium
Sunday, 11 Oct, 16:45 BST: Ireland v France, Millennium Stadium

"This Irish team has gone very much into a style of rugby that suits World Cups.

"You don't see many teams winning World Cup finals running in bagfuls of tries.

"While it might not be so exciting to watch, with the high ball to the fore, but in their half-back combination (Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton) they've probably got the most settled game-management team."

Kay admitted that he has doubts about the creativity of Ireland's backline given that Brian O'Driscoll is no longer there.

"But as a forward pack they are capable of arm-wrestling with the best," concluded the former England lock.

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