Sport Rugby

Monday 23 April 2018

Joe Schmidt: Experienced players needed to combat Puma intensity

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt says experience is key ahead of the second Test against Argentina
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt says experience is key ahead of the second Test against Argentina
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt is hoping the experienced team he has picked for Saturday’s second Test against Argentina will counter the intensity he expects from the hosts in Tucuman.

The Pumas are back on more familiar territory after playing the first clash between the two sides in Resistencia and the Ireland coach expects them to respond in kind with their trademark passion.

Schmidt recalled Six Nations stalwarts Rob Kearney, Jamie Heaslip and Devi n Toner for the game, while Eoin Reddan, Rhys Ruddock, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kilcoyne all come into the team.

If he uses his full bench, he’ll have played every player on the two-week tour but the starting XV is a reflection of the esteem he holds Argentina in.

“They have got six Tucuman men involved in the game on Saturday that a little bit of experience to try and make sure that we weather that first 20 minutes storm,” Schmidt said.

“I just feel there is a little bit of security about that and then give guys the opportunity off the bench from there.

“We brought 29 players away on tour and we wanted to make sure we recognised the amount of effort that they made on the training pitch and to be well prepared to train well and they all have so we wanted to give them an opportunity to demonstrate that in a test match arena.”

Schmidt said there had been some hard calls in leaving players out after good displays last weekend.

“We try to keep a little bit of a spine through the team. Damien Varley is one I would feel a little bit of sympathy for. I think he made a really good impact coming off the bench last weekend,” he said.

“I thought Robbie Diack played really and I thought Felix Jones was pretty much flawless at full-back, apart from one time when he knocked the ball back into the 22 and we put it out.

“But those guys unfortunately missed out to guys who add a little bit of freshness. Rob Kearney coming in for Felix, for example, he has got a lot of experience as well and we just feel there could be a bit of an Argentinian backlash, the fact that they will be wanting to make sure in what is the heart of rugby a little bit in Argentina and Tucuman. “

Schmidt is likely to hand debuts to Rob Herring, James Cronin and Noel Reid off the bench.

“I think it is a massive day for them,” he said. “They have all acquitted themselves really well. We have been massively impressed with how they have acquitted themselves in the training environment, in the way the have prepared themselves and make sure that the training changes are reasonably seamless.

“So, for James Cronin, I think his kind of whirlwind progression from just getting a start this year with Munster right through to potentially getting on in a test match is fantastic for him.

“I don’t think any of those three guys are the finished product but it will be another step toward giving them the confidence to continue to grow and hopefully add further value to us.”

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