Joe Schmidt: I have a headache every week - but that's a good thing
Ireland boss confident Jordi Murphy can fill void left by Heaslip
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is confident that Jordi Murphy will again be able to fill the void left by Jamie Heaslip as the 23-year old gets set to win his seventh cap in this Sunday’s Six Nations clash against England.
Heaslip misses out with a back injury and although Schmidt revealed that Iain Henderson missed some of training this week, the Kiwi believes that Murphy will bring a vital 'familiarity aspect' to the side.
“We talked about the options. One of the things is that Iain got a bit of a knock on his knee and didn’t train on the first day of the week on Tuesday,” Schmidt said.
“With a very short turnaround, we just felt that it was probably best to go with Jordi who played there in the first test against Argentina in South America during the summer and he also played there in the first round of the championship against Italy.
“It wasn’t altogether unfamiliar to us and we felt that Jordi played well against Italy,” he added.
There was no place in the match day squad for the likes of Keith Earls, Dave Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald but Schmidt insisted that all three are very close to breaking into the setup.
After Fitzgerald’s impressive display for Leinster last weekend, there had been plenty of calls for his inclusion on the bench ahead of Felix Jones but Schmidt was happy to explain the thought process behind his decision.
“Luke has done really well. I think one of the things with Luke is that, it potentially could have given us three left footers in the back field which isn’t as good a balance as we would have liked, “Schmidt admitted.
“We’re often looking for a bit of balance. It’s very hard to equate an outstanding performance against Zebre with a high performing England team.
“Keith Earls has trained incredibly sharply but probably hasn’t had a massive amount of game time yet but he’s getting better and better and that puts pressure on the guys who are there.”
Schmidt has also stuck with Jack McGrath ahead of Cian Healy and despite the latter’s impressive performances against England’s Dan Cole in the past, Schmidt is adamant that McGrath has earned his place in the team.
“There’s always temptation to change things up but I think Jack has done a super job,” Schmidt said.
“He was probably the standout player for us against South Africa, which is a very big pack. I thought he did a really great job that night.
“He’s played his way right through and I know that the coaching staff have genuine faith in him.
“Cian is still very short of game time and each time he gets a little bit, he’ll add an increased amount of value.
“To be honest, it’s very competitive every week. I think we (the coaches) had to recess our meeting this week just to have a bit of a spout to sort out our own thoughts about some of those tough decisions.
“That’s a good position to be in with the squad. It does make it a headache albeit a welcome one.”
With Heaslip again set to miss out, Schmidt has called on Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien to raise their game against a formidable English back-row.
“We will miss Jamie’s experience to be honest," Schmidt conceded. "He’s very much a big game player and with a big game temperament."
“That experience he brings often allows us to be better organised and that’s one of the big challenges for Pete and Seanie who are short on game time.
“At this level, experience makes a big difference in how organised people can be so that they don’t have to over-work and they give clarity to others because they’re in the right place at the right time."