Ireland must claim big scalp to succeed at World Cup
MATT O'CONNOR says he doesn't envy Joe Schmidt's task in facing down the Springboks next Saturday.
But the Leinster coach says Ireland must beat one of the southern hemisphere big guns if they are to compete at next year's World Cup.
"The success of the Six Nations has rightfully created expectations," the Australian said. "The reality is, if you want to compete at the World Cup you have got to beat the best teams in the world in your own backyard. If you can't do that, you don't realistically have a chance at the World Cup. They have to forge ahead and try and get some big results."
Schmidt is not shying away from the challenge that awaits his squad over the coming month, admitting that the powerful Springboks are probably the last side any injury-hit squad would want to face.
"If we wanted to avoid injury there's no way we would play South Africa," Schmidt said.
"But we want to push to be the best, we want to play against the best to measure ourselves. We want to be solution-based, looking back to see how we can do things better."
Schmidt dropped a hint yesterday that Robbie Henshaw is in line to wear the vacant No 13 jersey next week, while Mike Ross continues to make a slow recovery from his groin injury.
Rob Kearney and Gordon D'Arcy trained yesterday, but Rhys Ruddock, Sean Cronin, Paul O'Connell and Chris Henry were given the day off.
Schmidt will watch nervously as Johnny Sexton leads the Racing Metro backline in their Top 14 clash with Oyonnax today.