Ireland boss steps up hunt for Plumtree replacement
JOE SCHMIDT flew to New Zealand yesterday determined to find a quality replacement for forwards' coach John Plumtree.
The Ireland coach will spend part of this week with the U-20 side ahead of their final Junior World Cup game, before spending a month in his native country.
While he is ostensibly on his holidays after a successful first season, Schmidt is sure to use at least some of the time to scout around for available names to replace his fellow countryman.
His shock departure before the summer tour to Argentina has left Ireland with a major void to fill.
Plumtree's importance was emphasised once more on a tour where Ireland failed to perform to their own high standards in some areas, but managed to hit 27 line-outs from 27 throws and dominate Argentina at the scrum.
The affable former Sharks coach is a popular figure in the dressing-room, compounding his decision to return home to take a far less lucrative position with the Hurricanes.
"We're going to get straight onto it," Schmidt confirmed. "We're really keen to get someone of real quality and I think 'Plum' has done a super job.
"With Paul O'Connell there, he and Paul have got on really well and that is a massive part of it. Paul drives the line-out massively, and Plum has been a great sounding board for him.
"He has put a real emphasis on our driving line-out, which has been a really productive area of the game for us to go to."
Johnny Sexton and Devin Toner suffered concussions in Saturday's game and were taken off after consulting the medical team.
Conor Murray was withdrawn from the second Test after failing to recover from his dead leg, meaning Kieran Marmion won his second cap as a late replacement for Eoin Reddan.
He partnered Ian Madigan in the latter stages, with the Leinster out-half finishing his "roller-coaster" season with a crucial first international try on a tour he wasn't originally selected for.
Injury to Paddy Jackson opened the door and Madigan stepped through it in style, just as he did the Argentinian defence in Tucuman.
"I had a good chat with Isa Nacewa about six weeks ago and he just kind of reassured me of what I was good at," Madigan revealed.
"I've just tried to go back to that, and one of my strengths is showing and going with the ball, and beating people one-on-one with feet, and it's worked well for me over the last weeks.
"It's been a roller-coaster year. Any high was quickly followed by quite a bad low. At the start of the season I would have intended to be first-choice with Leinster and pushing for a starting spot in the Ireland team."