Tuesday 22 October 2019

Joe Schmidt backs Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour to hit the ground running with their 'contagious enthusiasm'

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, right, in the company of captain Rory Best, during the Ireland Rugby squad announcement, ahead of their opening Pool A game against Scotland, at the Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Yokohama, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, right, in the company of captain Rory Best, during the Ireland Rugby squad announcement, ahead of their opening Pool A game against Scotland, at the Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Yokohama, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt has backed Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour to hit the ground running on their World Cup debuts against Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday.

The coach says he could have played Keith Earls and Rob Kearney in the opener, but opted to put his faith in a pair of players who have been able to train since landing in Japan.

He added that Joey Carbery will take part in Ireland’s warm-up at the Yokohama International Stadium, but erred on the side of caution by naming Jack Carty on the bench.

The selection means he fields a back-three that has never started together for Ireland, but he is confident in their abilities.

“I think that their enthusiasm is something that's contagious, their ability to get themselves into the game,” he said of Larmour and Conway.

“Andrew has proven aerial ability and that will be really useful for us.

“I still have the vision very clearly in my mind of Jordan Larmour beating Israel Folau to a ball in the third Test in Sydney on our Australian tour last year.

“So he's very good there as well, and of course Jacob is a big man in the back-field.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

“They're all feeding off each other, they are all very, very keen to impress.

“And now they have that opportunity.

“You’ll see Joey will run fully in the warm-up as a reserve back.

“Keith Earls was the sharpest player at training on Wednesday. He was certainly the quickest. He was very, very sharp. Rob Kearney trained well as well.”

So, the coach remains positive that all three could feature against Japan tomorrow week.

Schmidt fully expects the Scottish half-backs to put his wingers and full-back to the test in what could prove to be tricky conditions.

“If Greig Laidlaw's at scrum-half, he's a very proficient kicker and very effective goal-kicker,” he said.

“When it does rain, points become just that more valuable, because they are harder to get because it's harder to sustain that continuity of play.

“Therefore Greig Laidlaw could be very useful for them, and we know Finn Russell has a huge variety of kicking game, so he will be a threat and also Stuart Hogg has a very long kicking game.

“In the end when you match that up with us, with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, I don't think there's too much between the teams.”

After four years of build-up, the New Zealander was asked if his side is ready to hit the ground running.

“You've just got to hope so, I can't guarantee anything,” he said.

“In 48 hours' time we'll have a better idea.

“We'll be just arriving in the stadium and getting ready to warm up, I'll be anxious, and so will many others.

“Because you never quite know.

“But one thing I'll be really confident of is that we'll be tough to beat.

“That in 48 hours' time I think you'll see a very collective effory, and that effort will make us tough to beat.

“I've no doubt that the Scots will have been working away and will make themselves something similar.

“I don't think there's a huge amount between the two teams, so whoever does get the bounce of the ball or just be a little more efficient than the other just may tip the balance.”

Given the inexperience in his back three, it is no surprise that the coach has picked a number of tried and trusted combinations in other areas of the pitch.

And he is looking for plenty of bang for his buck when it comes to a bench that is laced with impact.

“One of the things that made it easier in the backs was that there were backs that had trained fully all week, and there are backs who are now fully fit and up and running,” he said when asked about his selection.

“So we just felt that for continuity's sake we thought we would show the amount of faith we have right throughout the squad.

“Up front there were some tight decisions as well.

“We've been really happy with some of the guys who have come off the bench for us.

Whether a player starts or comes off the bench they are every bit as important to us, because you know that in the last quarter if the teams are close, that's pivotal. We've got people coming off the bench doing the right jobs.

"Across the board we're happy with the starting XV and the bench, and we'd be happy to supplant some of those guys with some of the guys who aren't there.

“Iain Henderson has almost got 50 caps. He was involved in the big games at the last World Cup last time and to have that experience is really important, particularly in the first game out.

“Jean Kleyn, I have no doubt, he will feature in some really important games for us. Tadhg Beirne coming off the bench has the ability to change the game up. We also got Jack Conan on the bench as well but Tadhg puts really great pressure on the ball and he has a little bit more time with us than Jean.

“We need the right people coming off the bench doing the right job.”

Both coaches are noted thinkers on the game and, while Schmidt confirmed that he’s kept some of his plan back from prying eyes he’s also expecting some surprises from the Scots.

“I’ve short sleeves on, so there’s not too much up my sleeves!” he said with a smile at his team announcement press conference.

“There's certainly things that you do hold back a bit.

“We'll certainly see some things from Scotland that we haven't seen before.

“Because we've been planning this for a long time.

“And when you get the opportunity to put this into practice, it still has to be put into practice accurately.

“One of the things that is in the way of that is the amount of pressure the opposition can put on you and I've no doubt both teams will be trying to put pressure on each other so that whatever they have got planned isn't quite as effective as they'd hoped.”

Online Editors

The Left Wing - RWC Daily: End of an era as Ireland say sayonara to World Cup

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport