Schmidt ready to make wholesale changes for Canada game
Garry Ringrose in line for debut with other uncapped players knocking on door
Jordi Murphy’s torn ACL in his left knee, which will sideline the Leinster flanker for between six and nine months, is the only disappointing legacy from Ireland’s 40-29 victory over New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The players and management touched down in Dublin at 6am on Monday morning and headed straight for Carton House to prepare for next Saturday’s international against Canada at the Aviva Stadium (7.15).
Murphy’s absence aside, the other 33-players from the squad reconvened at their Kildare base, supplemented by six players, with Niyi Adeolokun, Darren Sweetnam, Tiernan O’Halloran, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack O’Donoghue and Dan Leavy taking the enlarged squad to 39 players. There are nine uncapped players in the group.
Seán O’Brien (Leinster) and Peter O’Mahony (Munster) are included having lined out in Guinness Pro12 matches at the weekend. Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson are also in camp, the latter having not travelled to America. It would be a surprise if O’Mahony and O’Brien didn’t start on Saturday, while Henderson’s participation will depend on his recovery from a shoulder injury. All three, if fit, are strong contenders for a spot against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday week.
Outhalf Jonathan Sexton has nothing more debilitating than cramp. Ireland team manager Mick Kearney explained: “Jonathan Sexton is good. He cramped up a bit after 60 minutes. He had not played a lot of rugby for the previous six or seven weeks so he came off with a bit of cramp. But he’s fine. Paddy Jackson is back in the squad.
“The rest of the match-day squad is in good shape following a very physical encounter but there is a fair bit of fatigue amongst them.”
It’s unlikely that Sexton will be risked unnecessarily and so the outhalf jersey looks like being a straight battle between Jackson and 21-year-old Joey Carbery, who impressed on his debut at Soldier Field.
The presence of an additional 25 players in camp this week to the team that started against the All Blacks should allow Ireland coach Joe Schmidt to rest the bulk of the team that started in Chicago.
Kearney explained: “There are 33 players in, plus an extra six, so it’s 39 in altogether. We’ll just have to wait and see. We may well rest some of the people who played on Saturday against New Zealand because of the fatigue factor from the match and the travel.
“It is really going to be [Tuesday] afternoon before we get out on the pitch. It will be a couple of days before Joe makes up his mind on the selection.”
Garry Ringrose, an unused replacement against the All Blacks, should make his senior debut against Canada, while fellow uncapped players, Adeolokun, Sweetnam, O’Donoghue, Leavy, Luke McGrath, Billy Holland, John Ryan and James Tracy will all hope to make irresistible cases in training.
The Ireland team manager was asked about the nomination of Leinster and Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip for World Player of the Year. Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles are also on the shortlist.
“He is vice-captain to Rory [Best], one of the real leaders on the team. He’s grown into a leadership role over the last couple of years in superb fashion. He is an incredible example to not only the younger players but to everybody in the squad in the way he looks after his body.
“There is his nutrition, his rest, his recovery; it is absolutely at a world-class level.He turns up for work every day. He turns up for work every Saturday. He plays 80 minutes.
“That is absolutely invaluable, that you know you have somebody you know is going to go out and play 80 minutes consistently. Yeah, he’s a great player and he is fully deserving of that honour.”