Sport

Thursday 14 December 2017

Easterby finds the positives

Ireland's new forwards coach Simon Easterby hopes to turn a lengthy injury list into a chance to blood new talent this autumn
Ireland's new forwards coach Simon Easterby hopes to turn a lengthy injury list into a chance to blood new talent this autumn

Ireland must turn their lengthy injury list into the chance to build greater depth for Rugby World Cup 2015, according to forwards coach Simon Easterby.

Leinster prop Jack McGrath's recovery from calf trouble has proved a rare bright spot for Ireland on the injury front, with fellow loosehead James Cronin expected to miss several weeks with ankle trouble.

Ireland have an entire XV of stars on the treatment table and likely to miss the autumn Tests against South Africa, Georgia and Australia.

New forwards boss Easterby remains unfazed by the absences of pivotal figures like Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien however, preferring to focus on the openings presented by high-profile absences.

"We need to build depth in the squad anyway," former Ireland flanker Easterby told thescore.ie.

"I think the guys that can't make this series through injury means an opportunity for someone else to come in, put their hand up and stake a claim for the Six Nations and beyond.

"Instead of changing things, I think it's about new players coming in who maybe haven't been in the environment as much before and getting up to speed.

"I think it's really important that they understand we can't look back, we've got to keep moving forward."

Rob Kearney, battling back spasms, and Mike Ross, sidelined with a groin strain, remain in contention to face South Africa next weekend, with the Leinster duo expected to return to full training next week.

John Plumtree whipped Ireland's forward pack, notably the driving maul, into rude health en route to landing the 2014 Six Nations title.

The New Zealander's departure hands 39-year-old Easterby his first crack at international coaching, after two years as boss at Welsh region the Scarlets.

The former British and Irish Lion believes Joe Schmidt's squad must keep progressing, but through evolution not wholesale change.

"If it's not broke, you don't need to fix it - and it's been very, very good so far," he said.

"But there's always going to be things in forward play in particular where scrums and line-outs get picked up.

"Analysis is done, every single game is covered from four angles, and those are the sorts of things that sides are going to be working out. We've got to stay one step ahead of them."

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