Joe Schmidt sees Stuart Olding and Gordon D’Arcy comparison

Irish head coach is keen to test the potential of Quinn Roux ‘in that international arena’

Stuart Olding starts Ireland’s second test against South Africa this weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Stuart Olding starts Ireland’s second test against South Africa this weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho


Joe Schmidt has reacted indignantly to the notion that his selection for this Saturday’s second test can be interpreted as a sign that Ireland are holding back for a potential third test decider in Port Elizabeth next week.

“I think that’s probably an insult to the players that have come in to be honest,” said Schmidt in response to a question from a South African television reporter in the squad’s base in Johannesburg today.

“I think the players who have come in, I’m really hoping that they will pleasantly surprise just as the players who were probably undervalued a little bit last week. They certainly showed their mettle and it’s a huge challenge to those players who have come in to try to match what the players put into the game last week.”

“We have no doubt that South Africa would have benefited from that hit out. I think I said post-match it’s very difficult for someone like Allister (Coetzee) to come in and implement his strategy in the space of maybe half a dozen trainings.”

Indeed, on the premise that “each time they play together” the Boks will improve, Schmidt deduced: “If we were waiting for Port Elizabeth, they’re likely to be better again. So I think it’s important that we don’t wait, that we try to grasp the moment that we can and that moment is this weekend’s game at Ellis Park.”

In some respects, there may be more to come from Ireland as well, not lest if they keep 16 players on the pitch for 80 minutes, although the five changes to the starting line-up, makes this hard to forecast, as Schmidt admitted.

“It’s one of those things that’s very hard to quantify. I think it’s great if we get to keep 15 players on the pitch, that’s certainly always our intention. Our intention is to be always be a very well disciplined side but at the same time if something does go awry, that we can adapt and survive.”

“I thought we certainly went into adapt and survive mode but we didn’t do it within our shell, I thought the build-up to Conor’s try was a super bit of play with Jared connecting with Andrew Trimble and then Rory Best grabbing the loose ball and Conor finishing it superbly and so I don’t think we went into our shell too much and we won’t go into our shell too much this weekend either and hopefully we will show a little bit more. I know it’s going to be very difficult to do with the quality of the opponents we’re going to come up against.”

On giving the South African reared lock Quinn Roux has been handed his debut on his native soil, Schmidt said: “I think one of the things for us is that Quinn is very much a very good set piece player. I think in the scrum and lineout, I think he’s very proficient in those two areas and he’s trained incredibly well since he’s been with us.”

“I know Quinn very well from having coached him for two years previously,” added Schmidt in reference to his time at Leinster, where he first signed Roux. “During those two years he struggled to get real rhythm because he had a number of injuries and every time he got back playing, he unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to have a succession of games that would have allowed him I think to progress.”

“We’ve seen a bit of that progress in Connacht this season and I guess we’re challenging him to progress a bit further in that international arena.”

Roux was in initially included in the squad as scrimmages on the tight-hand side of the pack, and he will be packing down behind Tadhg Furlong, who will be making his first test start after half a dozen caps off the bench this season.

“It is a big day for Tadgh,” acknowledged Schmidt. “I know that he and Quinn and Iain Henderson on that axis at the scrum will be working incredibly hard to be as combative and as effective as possible. Tadgh is another guy who has trained incredibly well. Tadgh has spent a fair bit of time with us without getting a massive amount of time with us out in the actual pitch.”

“He started the season with us at the World Cup, he’s remained with us throughout the season and so it’s a huge ask for him, but we wouldn’t do it if we weren’t confident that he can step up and deliver something.” That said, Schmidt added the apt rider: “It’s a whole different realm stepping into the lions’ den.”

Schmidt is also a huge admirer of Stuart Olding’s multi-faceted skills’ set and has afforded him a third cap, three summers after winning his first away to the USA Eagles - before a try-scoring cameo off the bench against Georgia in November 2014.

“I think he’s maybe a little more in the Gordon D’Arcy mould, a guy with some footwork and some ability to play as a second receiver although I thought Luke Marshall did incredibly well doing exactly that and that was one of things that attracted us to Luke in the first place. He was ending up as a first receiver often in the way Ulster were attacking (this season).”

“We think Stu can bring a little bit of the same, the fact that he’s a left footer as well. That brings a little bit of a different dimension technically because we’d normally have a number of left footers in our backline but without Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Simon Zebo, we’re very right foot dominant so there’s a few different things that he can bring to the equation.”

“The other thing is Stu is a tough character. Mentally, he’s very tough, he stays in the game very well and I think he punches above his weight just as Gordon D’Arcy did. They’re quite similar in that they both distribute smart, opportune passes when it’s on, and they carry when it’s the right thing to do and they work hard away from the ball to try to get back into positions where they can get back onto the ball.”

“It’s a huge challenge for Stu up against Damien de Allende and Lionel Mapoe again with the same midfield combination. As I said earlier, we’re under no illusions that combination will be a lot more of a threat this week because they would have had a little bit more time together. They don’t play their Super Rugby together so, after a Test together, they’re likely to gel a little bit better together and our challenge is to just to get as get Stu and Robbie to gel as best as we can.”

As for the Springboks selection, which features just two enforced changes to their starting line-up, Schmidt said: “Yeah, look it wasn’t too much of a surprise that Pieter-Steph du Toit became a starter as opposed to being on the bench. I’m not sure, I think that was probably Allister’s intention last week but he had that hamstring issue and therefore he wasn’t able to be included. I think with Lood de Jager being injured, I think it was a natural promotion for Du Toit to come in. Obviously he scored the try and also is such a big athlete that I think he’ll bring a fair bit to the game.”

“Jantjes obviously played the bulk of the game (last week), it’s his home ground, he plays here with the Lions along with Faf de Klerk so keeping that combination is something that will no doubt give them a bit of continuity and even maybe those couple of changes on the bench with Morne Steyn, his experience and his ability to control games, I’ve seen him recently. Obviously, he was integral in Stade Francais winning the Top 14 and attaining the Bouclier de Brennus last season and he’s accomplished, experienced and he’s likely to bring a calmness and an ability to map them around the pitch. I think it’ll all come into an interesting mix.”

“Certainly, for us we’ve made a few more changes than they have and hopefully we don’t lose any cohesion on the back of that.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.