Tuesday 16 July 2019

Joe Schmidt steps up Six Nations preparation as Ireland set for week in Portugal ahead of England clash

Joe Schmidt will be hoping the training excursion gives the team a boost. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt will be hoping the training excursion gives the team a boost. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

The Irish rugby team will begin their preparations for the Six Nations in Portugal next week as Joe Schmidt takes the squad on a warm-weather training camp.

The coach, who names his squad today, will be hoping the camp has a similar impact to last year's trip to Spain ahead of the Grand Slam campaign.

That was the first time the coach took the team abroad ahead of an international window and the reaction to the trip from players and staff was positive.

It is not yet known exactly where the team will stay during their visit but it is understood they'll leave on Sunday and return at the end of the week before re-assembling on the Monday before the Six Nations opener against England on February 2.

Eddie Jones' men will spend the first half of that week in Faro and will fly directly to Dublin from Portugal ahead of the game.

The pre-tournament camp will have an impact on the provinces who have a full round of Guinness PRO14 fixtures next weekend.

It remains to be seen if Schmidt will release any of his front-liners who need game-time like Seán O'Brien and Robbie Henshaw who are in full training with Leinster but have been out since November.

Schmidt will be without scrum-half Luke McGrath for the Championship after Leinster confirmed he'll miss eight weeks with a knee ligament injury and, with doubts over the fitness of Kieran Marmion and John Cooney, he could call uncapped Connacht No 9 Caolan Blade into the squad.

Johnny Sexton, Peter O'Mahony and Iain Henderson are expected to be included despite their injuries. Sexton is out of Leinster's Champions Cup clash with Wasps, but Henshaw, O'Brien, Devin Toner, Rob Kearney and Dan Leavy are in the selection mix.

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