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Sunday 22 September 2019

No internal noise in Ireland camp regarding Rory Best’s captaincy – Joe Schmidt

Ireland will announce their final 31-man World Cup squad on September 8, with boss Schmidt insisting places are still up for grabs.

Joe Schmidt will announce Ireland’s final 31-man World Cup squad on September 8 (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)
Joe Schmidt will announce Ireland’s final 31-man World Cup squad on September 8 (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

By Nick Purewal, PA

Joe Schmidt insists there is “no internal noise” regarding Rory Best’s captaincy despite Ireland’s record 57-15 loss to England on Saturday.

Head coach Schmidt took the unusual step of addressing the media on Tuesday, accounting again for Ireland’s “unacceptable” eight-try hiding at Twickenham.

Ireland will announce their final 31-man World Cup squad on September 8, with boss Schmidt insisting places are still up for grabs.

Asked if 37-year-old hooker Best’s role as skipper was under threat, Schmidt refused any guarantees but said: “To be honest, if there is external noise of that nature then there is no internal noise of that nature.

“Probably for Rory it is that internal noise that is most relevant to him because that is where the decisions are going to be made and – at this stage – there are no decisions that have been made in that direction.

“So, there are guys who are going to get an opportunity this weekend and if they perform better than any player who played last weekend, then there is always a contest and you have got to keep that contest live.

“It’s an unacceptable result for us. It was a performance beneath where we’d like to be. It’s a performance beneath where we need to be.

“The whole group are very, very conscious that we have a short period of time to make sure we accelerate what is part of our progression.

“We did try and have a very rigorous pre-season and the pre-season really ran up until the Portugal camp. We tried to taper a little bit towards the end of the week but, really, we looked flat, we looked slow.

“To throw everything out would be a mistake. There were a couple of aspects that weren’t too bad.

“I felt we found a little bit of space in behind them a few times, there were a couple of glimpses of some pretty good structure and getting over the advantage line. And some pretty good defence a few times.”

Schmidt insisted star fly-half Johnny Sexton does not have a serious leg injury, but admitted Ireland will not take any risks with their premier playmaker.

Sexton might not feature against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday – though Conor Murray is fully clear of any concussion worries after a head injury check on Saturday.

Asked if Sexton has a leg problem, Schmidt said: “No he doesn’t have a leg injury per se. He’s got a bit of (muscular) stiffness and soreness. If we wanted to pick him this weekend we could pick him.

“If you had seen him out there and how hard he was running, it’s a progression for him.

“He is very keen to be involved this weekend but we are not going to be silly about that. If we don’t think he is 100 per cent and ready then he won’t be involved this weekend.”

Cian Healy suffered an ankle injury against England while Keith Earls is battling a knee issue, but Schmidt expects both to be back in plenty of time for the World Cup.

“Cian, he is bullish. Cian was involved in the first game and the second game. He probably wasn’t on the radar for this game anyway,” said Schmidt.

“We are probably just going to stick with that plan anyway. He is unlikely to play this Saturday and will play the Saturday after. I would be gobsmacked if he is not available for that.

“It’s really frustrating for Keith Earls. He looked super sharp.

“He got a little bit, I suppose you’d call it tendonitis in the knee, just above it. It’s just niggling away more than anything else.

“It is about playing the long game with Keith and making sure that he is 100 per cent ready to go. I know that he will be ready for the weekend after this one. I doubt whether he will be involved this weekend.”

PA Media

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