independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Prendergast urges Joe Schmidt to call up Grenoble hotshot James Hart

JOE SCHMIDT should consider calling James Hart up to his Ireland squad for the Six Nations, according to Grenoble skills coach Mike Prendergast.

The scrum-half hit the headlines in France at the weekend with the man of the match award in his club's win over Toulouse, a performance that earned him a place in the Top 14's 'team of the week' yet again.

While Munster's Conor Murray remains the pre-eminent Irish No 9 after his impressive display against New Zealand last month, there is plenty of jostling for position behind the Lion, with Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss involved in November and Paul Marshall and Kieran Marmion touring North America last summer.

But 22-year-old Clontarf man Hart's emergence as a complete, goal-kicking No 9 should not be ignored, according to Prendergast.

"Honestly, I don't think he is that far off it – I think he has a huge amount to offer and it's something that the IRFU and Joe Schmidt would want to take a look at," Prendergast said.

"The way he's going at the moment, you would like to think he would come into the reckoning. The age profile is good, he's only 22. Put him in there, see how he gets on.

"If he was just playing here on international weekends with the second XV you might doubt it, but he's not – he's playing against the best teams and he's not only holding his own, he's picking up man of the match awards.

"People forget he has only played seven or eight big games, but in his decision-making he is like a scrum-half who is into his third or fourth season. Technically he is very strong, his pass is very good and his kicking game is excellent from the tee and out of hand. He is improving every game."

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