17 Comments Billy Vunipola in doubt for Six Nations after undergoing knee surgeryWallabies flanker Mumm cited for dangerous lifting on Ireland’s Furlong 16,158 Views Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article Short URL Nov 28th 2016, 6:30 AM By Murray Kinsella Shot at Six Nations title swings into Ireland’s view after successful November Joe Schmidt is happy to have built more depth in his squad this month. http://the42.ie/3105830 Follow us: the42.ie Share8 Tweet Email Monday 28 Nov 2016, 6:30 AM “I AM EXHAUSTED all right,” said Joe Schmidt as the dust settled after his side’s frantic win over the Wallabies on Saturday eveningQuite probably heavily sleep-deprived after a run of four Test matches this month – two of them against the best team in the world – Schmidt could be forgiven for taking some time off and forgetting about rugby. Ireland celebrate Saturday’s win over the Wallabies. Source: Colm O’Neill/INPHOYet there he was in UCD yesterday with his wife, Kellie, showing their support for the Ireland Women as they faced his native New Zealand.There may be a breather early this week, but already Schmidt will be thinking of the Six Nations – just over nine weeks away – and Ireland’s plan to regain their title after a disappointing 2016 campaign.Schmidt will travel to each of the provinces this week to speak with each and every one of the players who have featured for Ireland over the past month, as well as with those who have been on the periphery.“[I will] have a bit of a chat to them about how they have gone so far and where we need them to get to, because if you ever stand still you will get run over,” said Schmidt. “We have got to keep pushing on.”This time of the season is always a frustrating one for Schmidt, as he is forced to part ways with his players after an intense month in camp with them.Ireland will meet up for a short stint in December, but Schmidt will only get the squad properly back together in the run-up to the opening Six Nations fixture against Scotland on 4 February.“We don’t have them again for two months,” said the Kiwi. “I know that it’s one of the frustrations when I came into this job; there was such a continuity coaching club or provincial rugby where, week to week, you could plot progress, you could work with individuals.“You could know where you were looking to head but, inevitably, when you get them back in together in that last week in January, there is going to be a lot of improvement.” Schmidt on the move at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Colm O’Neill/INPHOHaving won the Six Nations in his first two years as Ireland head coach, Schmidt tasted disappointment in 2016 as his side managed to win only two of their five games.2017 sees Ireland travel to Edinburgh, Rome and Cardiff, while England and France come to Dublin for the other two fixtures.“Certainly, our group wants the title, but you want the title every year,” said Schmidt when asked about Ireland’s ambitions for the 2017 tournament.Hebelieves that Scotland continue to improve under his old mate Vern Cotter, while he points to Wales’ win over South Africa and England’s long streak of victories as further proof that nothing will come easy in this Six Nations.From Ireland’s point of view, confidence will have been boosted greatly by the wins over New Zealand and Australia, while their depth looks much better than this time a year ago.The likes of Paddy Jackson, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, Joey Carbery, Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong have all gained valuable experience this month, while Schmidt handed out nine new caps in total.“We are working hard and trying to make sure the spine has a few more vertebrae in it, so we can slip a few more guys in and out of it,” said Schmidt. “But inevitably you get a guy, a leader like Rory Best, and you don’t suddenly replace him.“You get a guy who can control a game like he did in Chicago – Conor Murray – you don’t suddenly slip somebody in, even if he is a good little winger [Kieran Marmion]. You don’t necessarily slip him straight in and expect him to play well at scrum-half at the same level as Conor Murray.“I think no matter what teams you look at in the world, there are players who make a difference every time they play.” Paddy Jackson and Conor Murray celebrate. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHOIndeed, Schmidt was happy to point out that injuries meant that many of the opportunities for less experienced players this month were “a needs must.”“It would have been more tempered with Garry Ringrose playing at 12,” said Schmidt as an example. “Robbie Henshaw would have been playing at 12 [against the Wallabies].“Robbie was unbelievable in Chicago and I think that one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. You cannot fault Garry for doing a great job, and he has done a great job.But where their big boys really started running we did not quite have the firepower to stand square on the line and knock them back, where Henshaw has done that for us superbly, Jared Payne does it well.”Van der Flier’s performances over the course of the month were another example of a young player seizing an opportunity when injury struck down a more experienced man.“It was no surprise he got man of the match tonight,” said Schmidt. “Well, it was a bit of a surprise because I thought Besty would be hands down to get it. I thought was going to be rigged for sure!“And to be fair, I do not think it would have had to be rigged, I thought Besty was superb.”Lots of good memories for Ireland in November 2016. As ever, they will be immediately looking to the future for the next challenge.The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!