Wednesday 18 September 2019

Joe Schmidt drops hint that further cuts will be made to Ireland squad before training camp in Portugal

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt pictured before the test win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt pictured before the test win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Joe Schmidt has dropped a major hint that he will further cut his 43-man squad before the group departs for a warm weather training in Portugal on Wednesday.

Joey Carbery may not travel due to the ankle injury he picked up in today's 29-10 victory, which would not necessarily rule him out of the World Cup depending on his scan results.

Schmidt got a good look at several fringe players in the scrappy win in Dublin and will pore over the footage later this evening before deciding whether to drop further players from his extended squad.

The head coach also insisted that World Rugby should consider allowing more than 31 players to travel for future World Cups.

"I think we’ll see how the players came through today and we may not, but we are going to meet tomorrow morning after having had a look at the game this evening and then we’ll make a decision," Schmidt said.

"I think we’ll probably travel with about 40 but it could be 43, just depending on (the fact that) we want to have good training numbers.

Joe Schmidt was impressed by the first-half display of Luke McGrath in Saturday's test win over Italy. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt was impressed by the first-half display of Luke McGrath in Saturday's test win over Italy. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"One of the problems, I think, is that as you branch off with a smaller squad, just keeping those guys up to speed with what we’re trying to develop. It becomes a little bit of a difficulty for us, especially if we pick up an injury.

"We're playing England, Wales and Wales. Physically big teams and physically bigger than we are, therefore there tends to be a risk of attrition and we don’t want those other players to get too far away from us because we want them up to speed if they do miss out on that 31 in the end.

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"Because, with 31 players I think it’s a very tight number that World Rugby limit you to. You know, they talk about player welfare but we’ve a six-day turnaround into a five-day turnaround and 31 players, that’s very, very complicated.

"And that’s all the teams. I’m not saying that’s just tough for us. I think all the teams have tight turnarounds at stages."

The complexion of Ireland's final squad still remains unclear, but Schmidt did reveal that he was keen to select a prop who can play at both sides of the scrum.

In a pre-planned decision, Jack McGrath got just 40 minutes to stake his claim before Andrew Porter switched from tight to loose, which allowed John Ryan to come off the bench.

Although now recognised tightheads, Ryan and Porter have previously played loose, with the latter having done so more recently.

"We were really happy with Jack's first half, to be honest," Schmidt added.

"Again, he got up off the line and made some good impact tackles. And Jack for us, is very good around our attacking breakdown as well.

"But, we wanted to shift Andrew Porter across and give him 20 minutes there, because the reality is in the World Cup, you're going to have to have one prop who can play either side. Potentially maybe even two. John Ryan has played either side in the past.

"Finlay Bealham has played either side. So them three will probably be the guys who would cover at that role and the others would be more specialist, the likes of Cian (Healy), Jack and Dave Kilcoyne on the loosehead and Tadhg on the tighthead."

Schmidt also heaped praise on debutant Jean Kleyn: "I thought Jean acquitted himself really well. Our scrum was very good in the first half, I think we probably had four scrums and got penalties off them on the back of some really good power that we put through it.

"I thought around the pitch his work-rate was excellent.

"A couple of really good impact tackles that certainly stopped the Italian momentum when he got involved. He's a big man, Jean, pretty close to 6'7"/6'8" in height but also about a 120 kgs in size.

"As you said, he's your genuine stock-standard tighthead lock who gets through a lot of work in the tight. I thought he defended well as I said. It was a good starting point from him I think."

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