Joe Schmidt’s presence at Ireland’s training camp in Carton House yesterday was mere precursor; the incoming national coach will only arrive in Houston 24 hours before the US Eagles Test match at the BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, June 8th.
However, Schmidt’s watching brief is expected to evolve significantly when the squad moves on to Toronto to prepare for Canada the following week.
This is also when interim coach Les Kiss’ roll within the new coaching structure will be more clearly defined.
“Joe was in today, on the edge of the pitch,” said Kiss. “He didn’t want to get his hands dirty too early so he sat comfortably on the sideline.
“I think from now we will have more conversations. His load is definitely off. He’ll be coming over on the Friday before the Houston Test.”
Schmidt’s delay is due to a prior commitment, lecturing at an IRB coaching conference in Rome. Both Kiwi and Australian are attack coaches with similar philosophical attitudes that should allow them work together, although Kiss will possibly revert to his role, up to the 2011 World Cup, overseeing Ireland’s defence.
This, quite simply, is because Schmidt has always been a hands-on backs’ coach.
“We wouldn’t be too far removed but (there are) enough differences to be able to challenge certain ways we think and not be so comfortable that we think we have the same answers all the time,” Kiss explained. “You need common minds but you need challenging thinking as well and I think that will sit nicely with us.”
The main injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s departure to Houston, where temperatures are expected to still be around 25 degrees with 81 per cent humidity for the 7.30pm (local time) kick-off, are Mike Ross (dead leg) and Stuart Olding (ankle).
Ross is expected to recover but Olding’s MRI scan was inconclusive and he remains in a moon boot after sustaining the damage in Ulster’s defeat to Leinster in last Saturday’s PRO12 final.
Should the 20-year-old fail to train tomorrow then 32-year-old journeyman Jimmy Downey will travel and almost certainly get his first cap as there isn't another natural inside centre in the 28-man squad.
Rory Best's Lions call-up tour means Peter O'Mahony's ascension to the Irish captaincy comes a little earlier than expected. The 23-year-old Cork man faces a daunting task with the rest of Ireland's established leadership group being in Hong Kong en route to Australia.
“This is the game,” Kiss responded. “The game is that something happens and there is an opportunity. Peter was ready and willing when we had the chat about it.You can’t replace 67 caps but we move on with the squad we have.
“I think it has been noticed from a young age that Peter has strong leadership abilities for Munster and underage for Ireland.”
The US Eagles coach Mike Tolkin, following the 16-9 defeat to Canada in Edmonton last weekend, hopes Biarritz winger Taku Ngwenya and Northampton flanker Samu Manoa come through the Barbarians match unscathed.
Saracens Chris Wyles and Stade Francais lock Scott LaValla are also due to return.