Sunday 22 September 2019

Schmidt gives positive update on Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson and defends 'world class' Andy Farrell

8 February 2018; Head coach Joe Schmidt, right, with defence coach Andy Farrell during Ireland Rugby squad training at Carton House in Kildare. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
8 February 2018; Head coach Joe Schmidt, right, with defence coach Andy Farrell during Ireland Rugby squad training at Carton House in Kildare. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong are on track to face Scotland on Saturday week according to Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

Robbie Henshaw aside, the Six Nations leaders look like having their full squad available for the pivotal clash as they look to take one step closer  to a third title in five seasons.

Henshaw has been ruled out for the season, but despite Johnny Sexton missing yesterday’s open session at Lansdowne Road altogether the New Zealander was upbeat on the out-half’s gluteal issue.

Conor Murray ran shuttle drills behind the goal, while Rob Kearney and Bundee Aki sat out the session along with Henderson and Furlong who missed the bruising win over Wales with hamstring issues.

Chris Farrell went down during the session, but after receiving treatment he was able to walk off and Schmidt was relieved to report no serious damage.

Ireland break for the rest of the week to allow some players game-time with their provinces and the front-liners a rest from the relentless schedule.

And when they regather in Kildare next week, Schmidt hopes to be at full strength.

"Our plan is that they (Furlong and Henderson) train fully next week," he said.

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"What pulling them out of last weekend meant for us, particularly Iain who was very close to being available and could have played, is we decided to go backwards rather than forwards and take our time a little bit more with that recovery process so that with that extra week, we'd have them to be training full on the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of next week.

"Maybe we manage them a bit on the Monday, would probably be smart in that they're coming back into a session and go in and out a bit on the Monday. Fully on Tuesday, Thursday, and I think then we're pretty prepared for them to come into the selection equation.

"Chris jumped back into the huddle and was described as Lazarus by the lads. He just got his foot caught and twisted and fell and then got a bit of a fright.

"He certainly was jogging around. I’ve just come from chatting to him and he says he is absolutely fine.

"We don’t suspect that there’s any issue there.

"Conor ran really well today. Johnny was doing some off-feet conditioning. One of his favourite things. They both got through their work really well. It’s one of those weeks where you can be a little bit varied in how you deliver what needs to be done by different players.

"One of the really good things about this week is that it allows guys like Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion to get in and boss the team because in a match week by the time you have done three trainings on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday there’s not that many windows where the younger players can get in and take charge of the team.

"So that today is a really important investment. As we saw earlier (in the tournament) with Tadhg Furlong, you don’t know when somebody might pick up an injury at 3:14 into a match and need to be replaced.

"That has happened us a few times, even pre-match. Last time we ended the Six Nations here Jamie pulled up in the warm-up and we had to replace him before the match even started. We’ve got to try and be as ready as we can for all eventualities."

Schmidt addressed the defensive deficiencies that have seen his side concede six tries in their last two games, saying players were working hard to improve within the system under defence coach Andy Farrell.

"Andy Farrell is world class," he said.

"I'm maybe not the best person to judge, but in my experience, and I've worked with a whole lot of people, I think he's world class and he's got the confidence of our group, because they can see the system works, we've just got to make sure we apply it at the right time at the right place, with the right people in the right place. With the right people doing the same thing.

"If you look back at the game with one guy doing this and one doing that, there were very clear images that people know what we should be doing. Some of that is exuberance, somebody trying to make sure they are contributing in a positive manner. But any enthusiasm has to be tempered with intelligence on the pitch.

"Teams are too good. You don't fly out at Hadleigh Parks or Scott Williams, and expect them to feel ruffled. They're going to say: 'welcome, I'm going to manipulate you and make something of this for my team'.

"There are some learning experiences there. Do we have to learn quickly? Absolutely, because we can't afford to keep conceding three tires a game.

"Andy's doing a great job, not just with the team, but with individuals. Trying to get them to understand the pictures, so they make good decisions.

"Inevitably all teams get a bit narrow sometimes when they are feeling a bit stressed.

"When a team gets the advantage-line on them or a half-break or there is a poor collision that they win well and you have to go backwards and you don’t quite get the numbers around the corner that you need to balance up the sides because you are going back and around…

"Particularly when they are playing that fast ball we have to be able to adapt to those situations.

"You can’t just fire off and fly at people and leave yourself short on the edges. So it’s about getting that balance. We looked at some footage in this room this morning and at the system that allows that flexibility and those solutions will have been part of today’s training and part of next week’s preparation."

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