Changes unlikely for Ireland as walking wounded look to be in good health
“Their forwards are very strong and they have a very good set-piece, so that’s going to be a good challenge for us,” admitted Smal, and they also appears more balanced and better selected, when one recalls the midfield partnership two seasons ago of Shontayne Hape and Matt Banahan.
“They have expanded under (Stuart) Lancaster the way they want to play the game so it is a good all-round team with a very good set-piece,” said Smal. “I always say with the Irish that when they decide on a certain way of doing things they will do it and it is a very special attitude that when the chips are down – and you saw it in the second-half last Saturday – that they stand up to things and can pull through.
“The main thing is just to concentrate on ourselves first and make sure everything is in place. We don’t want to concentrate too much on them.”
That first meeting quickly underlined the meaning of this fixture for Ireland players and supporters to Smal, though he noted “it’s probably the same with South Africa as well. You can feel it in the camp, but on the day we have to put that performance together and for us it’s important as a team not to be too emotional, but to be accurate and execute the way we want to play the game.”
Two more year sKearney signs new contract
Rob Kearney yesterday put pen to paper on a new two-year contract to remain with Leinster until the end of the 2014-15 season.
Although the IRFU have yet to formally announce the 26-year-old Lions fullback’s extension, following on from Cian Healy and Mike Ross extending their stays with the province, the news will be a boost to Leinster.
Kearney is in his seventh year with the province, having made the first of 124 appearances in September 2005. He was named Irupa Players’ Player of the Year and the ERC European Player of the Year in 2012. The Clongowes Wood product made his Test debut against Argentina in 2007 and has 42 caps.
“Leinster Rugby has always been my home and I am very excited to be remaining here to play with a great bunch of players and coaching staff,” said Kearney. “I have been very lucky to have experienced success with that same group over the last number of years and with the great support we have, it made it a very easy decision for me.”