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Sunday 4 December 2016

Ireland holding nothing back in second Test, insists Joe Schmidt

Published 16/06/2016 | 13:56

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has dismissed any notion that his team selection for Saturday's second Test against South Africa indicates he is keeping something in reserve for the final outing in Port Elizabeth.

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Despite beating the Springboks 26-20 last weekend, the coach has made five changes to his team for the second Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg where his team can take an unassailable Test series win.

Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Tadhg Furlong, Stuart Olding and Craig Gilroy all come into the team as the coach looks to freshen things up and have a look at new options.

But he remains intent on winning the series in Johannesburg, despite the changes.

"That's probably an insult to the players that have come in to be honest," he said when asked by a local journalist if his team selection indicated he was holding out for a decider in Port Elizabeth.

"The players who have come in, I'm really hoping that they will pleasantly surprise just as the players who were probably undervalued a little bit last week.

"They certainly showed their mettle and it's a huge challenge to those players who have come in to try to match what the players put into the game last week.

"We have no doubt that South Africa would have benefited from that hit-out.

"It is very difficult for someone like Allister (Coetzee) to come in and implement his strategy in the space of maybe half a dozen training sessions and so each time they play together, you know if we were waiting for Port Elizabeth, they're likely to be better again.

"So, I think it's important that we don't wait, that we try to grasp the moment that we can and that moment is this weekend's game at Ellis Park."

The coach has compared Olding's skill-set to former Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy as the Ulster youngster takes over the Ireland number 12 jersey for Saturday's second Test against South Africa.

The 23-year-old has been handed the inside centre berth ahead of his provincial colleague Luke Marshall for the Ellis Park outing.

Schmidt has long been a fan of Olding who has endured a torrid time with injuries since winning his first cap for his country in 2013. He has featured once since against Georgia a year later, but Saturday represents a big opportunity for the versatile Belfast native.

And his coach certainly holds him in high esteem.

"He's maybe a little in the Gordon D'Arcy mould, a guy with some footwork and some ability to play as a second receiver," the New Zealander said after naming his team to face the Springboks.

"Luke Marshall did incredibly well doing exactly that and that was one of the things that attracted us to Luke in the first place. He was ending up as a first receiver often in the way Ulster were attacking (this season).

"We think Stu can bring a little bit of the same, the fact that he's a left footer as well. That brings a little bit of a different dimension technically because we'd normally have a number of left footers in our back line but without Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Simon Zebo, we're very right foot dominant so there are a few different things that he can bring to the equation.

"The other thing is Stu is a tough character.

"Mentally, he's very tough, he stays in the game very well and I think he punches above his weight just as Gordon D'Arcy did.

"They're quite similar in that they both distribute smart, opportune passes when it's on, and they carry when it's the right thing to do and they work hard away from the ball to try to get back into positions where they can get back onto the ball.

"It's a huge challenge for Stu up against Damien de Allende and Lionel Mapoe, the same midfield combination (from the first Test).

"As I said earlier, we're under no illusions that combination will be a lot more of a threat this week because they would have had a little bit more time together.

"They don't play their Super Rugby together so, after a Test together, they're likely to gel a little bit better together and our challenge is to just to get Stu and Robbie to gel as best as we can."

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