Monday 22 July 2019

Schmidt: We didn't learn enough against Wales

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Mike Ross aside, Joe Schmidt has named an entirely new starting XV to face Scotland and he is hoping his fresh contenders get more of a test than the men they are replacing in the green jersey.

The New Zealander expressed disappointment in the challenge Wales put up in Cardiff last weekend, a point perhaps reinforced by Warren Gatland's ruthless culling of three Lions from his squad yesterday.

Scotland arrive in Dublin on the back of a Six Nations whitewash, but the Ireland coach is hoping the Glasgow effect can spur them on to an improved performance in Dublin.

Schmidt has arguably named a stronger side for the second of his four warm-ups, with Ross joined by Devin Toner, Sean O'Brien, Jared Payne, Luke Fitzgerald and Tommy Bowe from the team that clinched the Six Nations against the same opponents in March.

The performance against Wales drew almost universal praise but it appears the coach won't be reading too much into it.

"We probably didn't get as much as from the game as we would have liked because Wales looked a bit flatter than we were," he said. "They just didn't quite have the same energy levels and I understand why and there is a reason for that.

"It was a little bit hard to judge that performance. The Scottish will be tough. The nature of the performances that Glasgow have given them, there is a really energy about them."

Once again, opportunity knocks, although this week's matchday 23 contains more frontliners than we saw in Cardiff last weekend.

Sean O'Brien leads his country for the first time on his seasonal bow and wears the No8 jersey. He is joined in the back-row by debutant Jack Conan and a positional rival in Chris Henry.

Of the rest of the pack, perhaps Dave Kilcoyne and Dan Tuohy are under the most pressure to perform, with the loosehead prop looking to stake a claim as concerns mount over Cian Healy's neck injury.

Tuohy is in a battle with Donnacha Ryan for a second-row slot but has delivered for Schmidt before and drew praise for his contribution off the bench last weekend.

Behind the scrum, an assured Isaac Boss performance can ensure his passage, while Ian Madigan has a chance to pass Paddy Jackson out in the race to back up Johnny Sexton who will return against Wales.

"We want Ian to control (the game)," he said. "He's done it before, there's evidence looking back that he's capable of doing it and that he's got a window of opportunity on Saturday to demonstrate that.

"With those three No10s, you'd love to see them competing for the spot and not having an absolutely clear hierarchy necessarily."

Gordon D'Arcy will certainly be hoping Madigan's on song as he gets what looks like his only chance to impress as Robbie Henshaw waits in the wings.

The veteran is hoping to ensure his swansong takes place on the world stage and must strike up a relationship with Jared Payne quickly against a decent Scottish midfield partnership.

In the back three, Simon Zebo can steal a march on Felix Jones with an assured performance at full-back, while Bowe and Fitzgerald are almost certain to travel.

Scotland: R Jackson; S Lamont, R Vernon, P Horne, T Visser; G Tonks, H Pygros (capt); R Grant, F Brown, J Welsh; J Hamilton, G Gilchrist; B Cowan, H Blake, D Denton. Reps: R Ford, G Reid, M Cusack, R Harley, J B, S Hidalgo-Clyne, D Weir, M Scott.

Irish Independent

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