MANAGING expectations for Irish fans is going to be a task on its own as Ireland head into the Six Nations in the new year and then on to the World Cup.
Saturday’s historic win over New Zealand has set the benchmark for the next 12 months and that will bring its own challenges for the players and the coaching staff.
Ireland had beaten the Kiwis just once away from home in a win Joe Schmidt describes as a surprise but last Saturday’s win on home turf was carefully planned and meticulously carried out and that has to be the new template for Ireland going forward.
“The win in Chicago kinda probably took us a bit by surprise.
“You watch things like that and you are delighted for the players and you know that they are committed to deliver it.
“It’s a bit special at home though.
“I thought it was a bit special because of what happened in 2013 because of how the crowd were.
“I thought the crowd were unbelievable and you know if you need a 16th man Jeez there are not many places to go better than the Aviva Stadium.”
The All Blacks are the number one team in the world for the last nine years on the bounce for a reason and that is because they strive to be better than the last time every time the players pull the famous black jersey on.
That will have to the expectation for every player pulling on a green shirt from now on as well and that will start against the USA next weekend.
The Irish team can live on the highs of last Saturday’s win but they have to front up and play at a higher level next week if they are to thread the same path as the All Blacks.
And that step up will happen because some players like Peter O’Mahony are going to have to be rested after three very demanding Tests giving World Cup bolters like Tadhg Beirne a chance to impress Schmidt.
That is the way the number one team do things and must be the way the number two team do things between now and the World Cup.
That is one of the areas where the head coach will continue to want to see Ireland getting better and his panel will take huge confidence from beating the world champions.
Expectations will be through the roof from the fans though as Ireland head into the Six Nations but results and performances from the weekend would suggest that it is going to be a really tight championship.
“For us, we do live in a bit of a bubble and we manage our own expectations.
“We want to be as good as we can be and so we try to create our own expectation and that expectation was benchmarked (against New Zealand) and we ask can we reach that again?
“Can we make sure we deliver at that level?
“Now you might deliver that again and an All Black team might beat you but you know you’re in the ballpark, you know you can foot it with the big boys when you can eek your way through an arm wrestle like that.
“I think you have got to keep getting better, if you don’t get better than that, I know the next time we play the All Blacks they will be (better).
“I think England have started to turn the corner as well.
“They were unlucky against New Zealand maybe not in the final result because of the way New Zealand fought their way back into it.
“You look at Scotland, Wales got a big result against Tonga and all that projects forwards to what will be a really competitive Six Nations again and yeah there will be some expectations because we are the current champions and have been three of the last five years.
"Therefore, we accept that there should be some pressure on us to produce performances in that Six Nations but at the same time we are realistic because we know how good those other teams are and how good we are going to have to be.”