Saturday 17 November 2018

Joe Schmidt says key Ireland duo will be ready for All Blacks

Garry Ringrose of Ireland scores his side's seventh try against Italy
Garry Ringrose of Ireland scores his side's seventh try against Italy
David Kelly

David Kelly

Injured Irish duo Rob Kearney and Garry Ringrose are "highly likely" to be ready to face the All Blacks on Saturday week after losing their fitness battle ahead of this weekend's test match against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium.

Although Kearney (shoulder) had always seemed likely to miss out, Ringrose's late withdrawal with a hip problem came as a surprise.

Irish coach Joe Schmidt confirmed that Ringrose might have been able to feature "at a pinch" but added, "We don't want guys playing against Argentina at a pinch".

Chicago hat-trick hero Jordan Larmour will thus get another chance to shine in front of an expectant  Aviva crowd and the head coach is excited about the prospect.

"It's very much a step up," said Schmidt.

"He has given us confidence on the back of test matches where he came on late, against England in midfield last spring and in the third test against Australia at full-back.

"And he did well last week and switched to the wing at times too. He's a ball of energy back there and that energises other people around him.

"We hope he can build on what is a positive introduction to test rugby so far."

Aside from those minor injury quibbles, Schmidt's all-conquering side remain firmly on course for their 2019 World Cup preparations but the Kiwi is cautious at casting an eye too far into the future.

"I'd never describe anything as bang on track because so many variables can interrupt. Are we comfortable? We're never going to be comfortable.

"There are a couple of positions where we need more depth and others where we have so much depth it makes selection difficult.

"After Saturday, I'd like to say we can look at things and know we're a bit more comfortable in putting things together for next week and beyond that."

Schmidt has decided to opt for Iain Henderson and James Ryan in the second-row, one of those positions where Ireland's depth is flourishing.

"We're trying to manage Tadhg Beirne. He started last week and did well but we wanted to start two fresh ones this week, next week we will have five second-rows in the mix. We need to go toe to toe with a strong Puma line-out this week because they have a lot of jumpers in there.

"We went with Iain ahead of Devin because Iain is probably behind on minutes this season and he probably needs 50 or 60 minutes at a decent tempo. We know we can get that out of Devin.

"Scrum-half was a headache too. John Cooney did well coming in but we felt Kieran Marmion did well and after missing a couple of games with an ankle knock.

"He needed time and he is an experienced guy. He stepped straight in against England two years ago and he is a great little player for us."

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