Joe Schmidt: Even 'one more player' in World Cup squad 'would make a difference'

Joe Schmidt: Even 'one more player' in World Cup squad 'would make a difference'

Joe Schmidt believes just one more additional player on the plane to Japan would be enough to ease his selection headaches as he finalises his 31-man Ireland World Cup squad this weekend.

Whether it was 31 players or 40, squad selection was always going to be a numbers game and Schmidt is in the same boat as the 19 other head coaches set to finalise their 31-man squads for Japan.

Tournament organisers World Rugby must receive participating nations’ rosters on Monday and though some such as England, France, New Zealand and South Africa have already settled on their maximum permitted 31 they hope can deliver the William Webb Ellis Cup on November 2, Ireland boss Schmidt will leave it until the last possible moment before making his final cut from the 41 in his training squad to the 31 allowed.

That it’s just 31 players rankles with Schmidt, as he explained recently.

Yet he is not being greedy, the circumstances and variables of Test rugby in the gruelling environment of such a tournament as a World Cup have left the New Zealander to call for a rethink on squad sizes and he believes just one more player in the travelling party could make a world of difference.

“I think even just one more player would make a difference.

I think 32 would make a difference because when you’ve got a five- or a four-day turnaround you know that you’ve got three specialist positions, hooker, scrum-half and out-half.

“If you take three hookers, which you are really bound to, you could take three scrum-halves and three out-halves but it’s very difficult so one of them is going to have to back up.

“Now he might start one and be on the bench on the other but then you get one injury to one of those players and say a guy gets replaced after 60 minutes, a guy gets an injury that’s going to keep him out for two weeks or say he gets a red card, you can’t replace him under the laws of World Rugby.

“So suddenly you’re squad size is 30 and you’ve only got one scrum-half and he’s going to have to play the whole time.

“So try to solve those conundrums, if you could have 32 and have three scrum-halves and three out-halves and three hookers, plus you know you have to have five props because you can’t play a game of rugby without four qualified props.

“So as soon as you get a prop injury or prop suspension or even if a prop gets ill on the eve of a game you’ve got to have someone else who can play that position.

“So when you add all those numbers up you’re starting to get skinny in the back and second rows and a little bit skinny in the back five so I think 32 will help teams for sure.”

Joe Schmidt believes just one more additional player on the plane to Japan would be enough to ease his selection headaches as he finalises his 31-man Ireland World Cup squad this weekend.

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