Saturday 10 December 2016

'It's tough' - Joe Schmidt admits to big selection headaches in back row, front row and back three

Nick Purewal

Published 13/11/2016 | 03:53

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, right, and captain Peter O'Mahony of Ireland in discussion ahead of the Autumn International match between Ireland and Canada at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, right, and captain Peter O'Mahony of Ireland in discussion ahead of the Autumn International match between Ireland and Canada at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Joe Schmidt insists he faces "tough decisions" over Ireland's back-row, back-three and front-row for the side to take on New Zealand next weekend.

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Ireland eased past Canada 52-21 in Dublin on Saturday night, in a comfortable albeit sloppy eight-try victory over the world's 18th-ranked side.

Head coach Schmidt fielded an entirely new XV from the side that made history with the maiden win over the All Blacks, the 40-29 victory in Chicago.

Schmidt knows full well the All Blacks will pitch back up in Dublin on Saturday desperate to make amends - and hopes he will spend the first half of next week agonising over the Ireland XV for the eagerly-anticipated rematch.

"It's tough, yeah - in the back-row, the back-three, even front-row there's some tough decisions," said Schmidt.

"So we'll get together and sort those out. We'll announce the squad on Thursday and that squad will have been really, really closely looked at.

"Hopefully it will be the right squad to give the All Blacks another really good game."

The reality of Ireland's situation is that Schmidt is unlikely to make changes from the starting line-up that downed the All Blacks for Saturday's rematch.

Fit-again experienced back-rowers Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien will probably battle it out for a spot on the bench for the Aviva Stadium encounter.

Both loose-forwards showed up well against Canada without hitting their full stride.

Tiernan O'Halloran claimed a brace in the Canada triumph, with Keith Earls, Luke Marshall, Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and James Tracy all crossing, and a penalty try completing the scoring.

Finlay Bealham could have done enough to challenge Tadhg Furlong's starting berth at tighthead, while Earls will push hard to be included against the All Blacks too.

"Really I take quite a long time going back through the game," said Schmidt.

"You get a gut feel post the game and there's some tough decisions to make.

"Then you try to crystallise those decisions with a really intensive look back.

"Then you get together with the other coaches and they will all put in their opinions and we try to best judge what will be the best 15, 23, even 25."

Canada boss Mark Anscombe believes his side gained the kind of credibility he was seeking ahead of the fixture, despite the hefty loss.

The former Ulster coach hailed his men for forcing their way back to 14-14 having shipped two early tries.

"The end result got a little bit away from us, but I think there's a lot of positives," said Anscombe.

"Maybe we should have gone into the break at 14-14. I'm really proud of the way the guys came back from 14-0.

"But you make one error and they pounce.

"I think we did show today that we're good value for more of these kinds of top-level fixtures.

"The big thing that's standing out with Ireland is the talent that's starting to come through.

"You need to keep your top players honest. Squads that have that become more competitive, more successful."

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