Joe Schmidt has said he is confident that the players who are returning from injury will be able for the rigours of Saturday’s huge game against South Africa.
The Springboks come into the game as what Rob Kearney described as “the form team in the world” - brimming with confidence after last month’s defeat of the All-Blacks.
But Schmidt has expressed his faith in the players to be ready for the physical battles ahead.
Prop Mike Ross had the biggest question mark over him. The 34-year-old has battled to return to fitness after a niggling groin injury kept him out of action since Leinster’s game against Munster in early October.
Given his lack of match fitness, Schmidt was asked at yesterday's team announcement if he was felt Ross would be able for 80 minutes of test rugby.
“Yeah, really confident. Mike has trained really well, particularly at the back end of this week, “ said Schmidt.
“You can never be sure about anyone returning from injury, but I’d like to think that he’s really well prepared. He’s done a lot of off the pitch. I know there is nothing like pitch conditioning, but he has certainly been tested.”
Joe Schmidt speaking yesterday.
Should Ross be unable to complete the match, Schmidt is confident that Connacht’s Rodney Ah You is capable of stepping in.
“Rodney’s scrummaged really well,” he said. “He did another great job against Ospreys last weekend and he did a great job against Glasgow.”
Schmidt has also dispelled any doubts over Jonny Sexton's fitness.
The Racing Metro player was subbed off during his Top 14 game at the weekend with a suspected hamstring injury, but again the Ireland head coach is happy he out-half is match ready and selected him over Ian Madigan.
"He has gone in and out a bit with Ian Madigan, but that is something we would do anyway to help prepare both players, “ he said. "But Jonny took a full part in training and trained well.”
However Schmidt’s faith in his chosen side doesn’t blind him to the difficulties of the task facing Ireland on Saturday.
“We have got to go with what we think is the fittest team available, that will cope with an environment that’s going to be incredibly hostile."
Breakingnews.ie reporter Shaun Cronin spoke to Irish Examiner rugby correspondent Simon Lewis about the upcoming match.