TOMORROW's derby between Munster and Leinster will act as a trial for Ireland hopefuls, according to assistant coach Les Kiss as the last of the Lions return to action.
Paul O'Connell will make his first start of the season for the home team at Thomond Park, while Conor Murray will make his return from the bench. Sean O'Brien is expected to be named in the Leinster side that will be announced today.
"This is the real mettle. That's where you test yourself. It rivals the intensity of the Heineken Cup and it is where we begin to get clues ahead of November," he said on 2FM last night.
"November is not far away and we're looking forward to the weekend because, while these types of game are not what you select finally on, you certainly see some guys up against each other and see where they are.
"It is about game time now, particularly for the Lions, and it should be one hell of a game at the weekend for sure.
"It is getting closer and closer, the players know it and the stakes are rising.
"Players know that decisions will be based on performances. How they perform with their province, how they perform in training and feedback from their coaches.
"Put your hands up and you have a chance. We are not wiping anyone out, everybody has a chance."
While Schmidt is taking over an Ireland side at a low ebb, Kiss, who coached the national side on their tour to the United States and Canada in June, says that some good will come of the injury crisis that wreaked havoc on Declan Kidney's final season.
"One good thing that came of that and the summer tour, a broader group of players has been exposed to that type of Test match pressure and what it takes to play and prepare for these games. We hope to see some of that come through in the next few years, and you might even see it in November."
MUNSTER (v Leinster) – F Jones; K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer; D Ryan, P O'Connell; P O'Mahony (capt), N Ronan, J Coughlan. Reps: D Varley, J Cronin, BJ Botha, D O'Callaghan, CJ Stander, C Murray, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley.