Summer tour gives Schmidt perfect prep
Ireland will play three Tests on their summer tour in June this year, in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and it will be interesting to see how Joe Schmidt uses this tour in his preparations for next year's World Cup, writes Ronan Loughney.
Last year's tour to the United States and Japan saw Schmidt include eight uncapped players in his travelling party, three of whom - Andrew Porter, James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale - played a massive part in Ireland's Six Nations and Grand Slam success this year.
While the tour represents an excellent opportunity to give young players experience at the highest level ahead of the World Cup, Schmidt will again have to strike a balance between getting his young players this up to speed while not exposing them too much against one of the best teams in the world.
Schmidt has done this masterfully up to now and is building a squad with serious depth and variety without seemingly affecting the momentum of the national team.
A lot of people comment on the importance of timing and preparation in the lead-in to a World Cup to allow a team to peak when they arrive at the competition.
I think most Irish rugby supporters will agree that things are very much on course for this group of Irish players.