Tuesday 27 September 2016

Schmidt ready to shuffle his pack, but not in time for Twickenham showdown

Published 20/02/2016 | 02:30

Johnny Sexton receives tratment on an ankle injury he picked up during the Irish squad session in Mullingar yesterday - the Irish No.10 is expected to be back in training on Monday. Photo: Sportsfile
Johnny Sexton receives tratment on an ankle injury he picked up during the Irish squad session in Mullingar yesterday - the Irish No.10 is expected to be back in training on Monday. Photo: Sportsfile

Joe Schmidt has confirmed that he will introduce fresh faces into his Ireland side before the end of the Six Nations, but he is unlikely to do so for next weekend's trip to Twickenham.

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With just one point after two games, Schmidt has come under pressure to blood some of the younger players like Stuart McCloskey, Josh van der Flier and Ultan Dillane and they are now almost certain to make their international debuts in the coming weeks.

All three players were involved in yesterday's open training session in Mullingar during which Johnny Sexton limped out after he went over on his ankle.

Schmidt later allayed fears that Sexton was a doubt to face England next Saturday but the news was not so positive for Sean O'Brien (hamstring), Dave Kearney (shoulder) and Mike McCarthy (concussion).

The trio have been ruled out of the reminder of the tournament, while McCarthy's head injury looks certain to have ended his season as he faces a spell out to "freshen himself up".

"I think you will see guys over the next three games that you probably haven't seen in the tournament so far," Schmidt said.

"I don't know which of the games or which number of the games but I think the last two Six Nations we have been hanging in tooth and nail fighting for the wins that we needed or the differential that we needed.

"We haven't been in this position where mathematically we are in with a chance but realistically the chance is a long shot where we actually get a window of opportunity to maybe blood a few new guys and chase results at the same time.

"I don't think it is going to change our outlook in what we want to achieve but it is going to give us an opportunity to maybe look at a few guys like the big fella (McCloskey) there and a few others.

"He is actually bigger than all our loose forwards as well. He is sizeable and he has been working on a few things even post-training with us and we are seeing some good reward from that."

Sexton rolled his ankle in the early part of yesterday's training in front 3,200 supporters and required medical attention before eventually sitting out the rest of the session.

Schmidt, however, insisted that the out-half would be fit enough to train fully on Monday when the squad return to their Carton House base.

"He just rolled his ankle. He could have trained on, but we sent him to the side," Schmidt explained.

"He rolled it, then did all the individual stuff in the unit split, but in the end most of what we were going to do is broken-play work, so we didn't really need him in there and we had 18 players from the U-20s.

"Johnny will be fit to play on Monday. The problem with rolling your ankle is if you do train on it you just get more inflammation. The sooner you stop the inflammation, in 48 hours you're up and running.

"I wouldn't be concerned at all. The medics came and said to me, 'Do you want him to carry on?' I said, 'No, leave him out.'"

Schmidt, meanwhile, hit back at Eddie Jones' jibe that England must win the 'Aussie Rules contest' in Twickenham.

The England coach also claimed that Ireland kick 60pc of their possession but Schmidt was quick to dismiss Jones' notion.

"I was down in Melbourne a couple of times last year, so I actually sat in a coaches' box for Carlton versus Richmond," Schmidt (above) said.

"There were 24 TV screens in that coaches' box so whatever they do down there, it is well beyond my ability to cope with all that information overload.

"But seeing all the line coaches interact and trying to get all of that organised, I've no doubt that I picked up a couple of tips on kicking but I think we've kicked less than a quarter of the possession we've had which probably doesn't correspond with the statistics that have been reported."

The New Zealander also responded to claims that his players were reluctant to play what they see in front of them and instead stick to a rigid game-plan.

"Those fine margins just have to be finished by us," he bemoaned. "It is one of the things that has allowed us to maybe get our noses in front in the last two Six Nations.

"If you look at some of tries that we have scored and I know that people will always want more tries, but some of the tries that we did score last year and the year before.

"Last time we went to Twickenham, you don't get those tries if there's not a number of things lined up that are very accurate.

"The decisions, the accuracy, the timing, the quality of the transfer, they are all elements that are moving parts that you try and get synchronised as possible.

"You're right, we haven't quite been synchronised enough or made quite the right decisions at the right times.

"Because sometimes, physically, you may not have the same power or strength as your opponent, there's a challenge for us to be even more accurate if we can be."

Irish Independent

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