Sunday 17 December 2017

Kilcoyne: Arrival of Schmidt in Texas will boost squad

Ireland's Dave Kilcoyne during squad training. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Dave Kilcoyne during squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O’Connor in Houston

JOE SCHMIDT touches down in Houston on Friday and prop Dave Kilcoyne believes his presence will lift the Irish squad for their Tests against the United States and Canada.

The new Ireland coach is officially on a watching brief before taking over the job on a full-time basis, but with 10 players away with the Lions, the young touring squad have plenty to play for as they look to impress.

Ireland take on the US Eagles on Saturday in Texas before travelling to Toronto for the second game of their two-match tour and KIlcoyne is relishing the chance to finish his breakout season on a high.

Twelve months ago the UL Bohemians loosehead was had just one Munster start to his name, but he comes into this week’s match as the province’s first choice No1 and with six Ireland caps to his name.

With positional rival Cian Healy one of those in Australia with the Lions, this is a chance to lay down a marker for a starting spot having made all of his previous international appearances off the bench

And the 24-year-old believes that Schmidt’s presence means that the Les Kiss coached squad will be primed for action when they take to the field at the BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday.

“Look, it is a clean slate for everyone,” he said at the team base in Texas this morning.

“Joe coming in is great, if you look at his record for Leinster he has done great and let’s hope he can do the same for Irish rugby.

“With a new coach coming in, lads are looking to impress. From what the lads have been telling me, Joe is manic into his workrate and has huge background information done on all players so I’d say he has huge knowledge of what to expect. It is a big opportunity for people coming through.

“We have two big games coming up with America and Canada, I am putting my best foot forward to make sure I put down a good marker to ensure I can get that No1 jersey going forward. It is a huge test, a huge chance for me and I’m relishing it.”

Loosehead was once a problem position for Ireland, but the emergence of Leinster’s Jack McGrath, Ulster’s Paddy McAllister and Connacht’s Denis Buckley means that tourists Kilcoyne and Tom Court can’t rest on their laurels.

With seven uncapped players in the squad and the Lions and injured players to come back into the equation ahead of the November internationals against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand competition for places is high.

“From the Six Nations and November you have a lot of new faces, but that is down to the strength in depth of Irish rugby,” Kilcoyne said.

“Look, the more competition for places brings out the best in players. There is a lot of competition for places but you have to back yourself in these situations.”

The main barrier to impressing this week will be the Texan heat. It was already 26 degrees and 77% humidity in Houston when the players underwent their first full training session in the US at 10am (local time) this morning.

“Look, the humidity is more of an issue than the heat,” Kilcoyne said. “We’ve air-con in all of the rooms and the hotel and the big thing is to make sure that you’re hydrating when training. We’re adjusting well so far anyway.”

And Kilcoyne is looking forward to the test the USA bring on Saturday, particularly at scrum time.

“They’ve a big pack, their tighthead Eric Fry is a good player and they’ve a good, low hit and it is an area of their game that they have been working on. They gave Italy a good run for their money there, so it will be a tough test.”

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