'That clarity can be a really powerful tool' - Why Eddie Jones' World Cup selection tactic could pay dividend
World Cup preparations are in full flow as teams begin to cull their squad and head coaches look to settle on a 31-man travelling party.
Every team takes a different approach, with Joe Schmidt naming an initial squad of 44 players, before adding Will Addison, cutting Ultan Dillane and Rory Scannell ahead of the first warm-up match, followed by the omission of John Cooney, Finlay Bealham and Mike Haley before the squad jetted off to Portugal for a training camp this week.
There could be further cuts after Ireland face England in Twickenham this weekend, with then team finishing out their warm-up period with a trip to Wales before hosting Warren Gatland's side at the Aviva Stadium, with their opening pool game against Scotland two weeks later.
Schmidt is expected to name his final squad between the Wales games, which would give him three weeks preparation time before what should be their toughest challenge of the opening round.
Keeping an enlarged squad during this period gives the benefit of having two full teams at training, as there are always players who have to sit out either through injury or general soreness.
England head coach Eddie Jones has taken a different approach, naming his World Cup squad before the opening World Cup warm-up game, a full seven weeks before the start of the tournament.
While many raised their eyebrows at such an early selection, there is logic behind the Australian's approach. When the uncertainty over who will travel is prolonged, it can leave players on the fringes concentrating more on getting a seat on the plane instead of actually preparing for the challenges in Japan.
By naming his with six weeks to go before the first game, Jones can concentrate fully on the competition rather than devoting time to selection headaches.
Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Aldi, Luke Fitzgerald says that the 'clarity' provided by Eddie Jones so early in the warm-up period could pay dividend at the World Cup.
"I thought it was really sensible," Fitzgerald said.
"Even the guys who leave the squad now, while they will be disappointed, they can go back and train and play games with their club because they will be doing pre-season now. I actually think they will be better condition because they won't be sitting around getting 15 minutes here or there because they are on the outside.
"And from a planning perspective, everyone has clarity, if they are going and who they are going up against. That clarity can be a really powerful tool for that first game."