Saturday 21 September 2019

Joe Schmidt's captaincy call imminent as Ireland step things up in Australia ahead of first Test

Jonathan Sexton, right, with team-mates Ross Byrne, left, and Jordan Larmour, during Ireland rugby squad training at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland, Australia. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton, right, with team-mates Ross Byrne, left, and Jordan Larmour, during Ireland rugby squad training at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland, Australia. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor in Gold Coast

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek says a decision on who will captain the team against Australia is imminent with Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahony in contention for the role.

The team trained for the first time at their team base in Gold Coast overnight and the New Zealander said they have a clean bill of health after overcoming the effects of their long journey.

Joe Schmidt names his team on Thursday morning and will confirm the stand-in for Rory Best when he does.

And Feek is happy with the capacity of the remaining hookers in the squad, having lost Best to a hamstring injury on the eve of the tour.

"We've had a leadership group that has been pretty solid and tight. Any one of those guys could step in," Feek said of a collection of players that includes

O'Mahony, Sexton, Keith Earls, CJ Stander and Best.

"That's a decision that will be made in the next 24 hours or even in the next hour or so.

"We've got three experienced hookers who can do the job, they're all leaders in their own right.

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"Our environment is everyone has got to be a leader in some way, Rory is a great guy and a lot of the senior players get alongside the other guys and show them the ropes.

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"I suppose that is our job as well. Nothing changes if someone moves out, if we lost Rory or Johnny during the game, someone comes in and they have the same way of doing things, with albeit some little physical things that are up for grabs.

"We're still looking at it, we've got the three there. Sean Cronin's done really well, he's been pretty successful over the last couple of months. Rob Herring has really stood up for Ulster as well and Niall is there.

"Hooker-wise, we're reasonably happy with what we have. It's just we're in decision-making mode as well."

Feek has moved to Japan to take up the role as assistant coach at club side NEC Green Rockets and is juggling that role with his duties with the IRFU.

"It won't change too much," he said.

"The provinces do a great job, the communication is pretty straightforward. Most people have some sort of app to stay in touch, it's just a matter of making sure you're using the right one. Apart from that, we've got good relationships."

Meanwhile, Ireland lock James Ryan says the squad have settled into their surroundings at the Royal Pines resort which hosts the Australian PGA championship every year.

"Pretty well actually," he said of getting used to life Down Under.

"We had a strategy in place to combat the jet lag as much as we could. I was in the first group, so on the first flight we were told to only sleep for 90 minutes and then the second flight we could sleep as much as we wanted.

"We had that in place and once we got here, we had to stay awake. We got here at 6.30am so we had to stay awake for the whole day, which was tough, but then I slept pretty well that night. For me, it's been fine.

"I'm rooming with (Dan) Leavy, so we're waking up a bit alright but it's nothing major really.

"This is an amazing resort. We trained on Sunday and we're training again today but yesterday we had a day off and some of us went to Wet and Wild, the water park, which was good craic. Another group went jet-skiing, so we got out and about to see the spots.

"We have another down day tomorrow so I think I'm going to go to the wildlife park, see some koala bears and stuff like that. I've never seen them and they look pretty cool, so that's the plan."

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