Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt has said no player’s name is on a World Cup jersey just yet, and contenders still have time to make a case for inclusion.
The players who lined out against the Barbarians last night gave Schmidt and his backroom team plenty of food for thought, and they still have more rugby to watch.
“The coaches will get together tomorrow morning and have a look at what we found out about some of the players,” Schmidt said in his post-match interview. “We know we’ve got to make some decisions post-Saturday.
“We’ll get up to Belfast and have a look at a few more players in the Guinness PRO12 final and that will really then give us a platform to make some selections.”
The members of the Emerging Ireland squad can also take heart; Schmidt confirmed they are also in the mix for consideration.
“We got together for a couple of hours today and couldn’t make our minds up,” Schmidt said. “Some of what we decided was let’s have a look tonight.
“Let’s get across to the Emerging tour and have a look at another couple of guys over there. Stu McCloskey and Noel Reid didn’t play tonight, Rhys Ruddock didn’t play tonight. They’re on the Emerging tour so we’ll get a look at them then.”
The New Zealander spoke at length about the importance of getting the right balance in the squad, with experience a crucial factor.
He used the example of a potential loss of Conor Murray, who faces at least six weeks rehabilitation for the knee injury sustained in last weekend’s PRO12 semi-final.
“I saw Conor go down here last weekend and thought that could be a total change in our thinking. You start thinking about ’ what are our alternatives?’.
Joe Schmidt has a lot to think about in terms of squad selection.
He continued: “That something that it is very, very difficult. You try to keep a balance of experience as well, Conor’s experience might allow someone who’s less experienced to be involved. If those balances get upset by injury, then it may mean that you re-jig the whole positional mix that you’re looking at”.
The coach synonymous with research and preparation is doing all he can to get team selection right.
“I’ve spoken to coaches who have been to the tournament, I’ve read the reviews from tournaments in that past and tried to learn from those,” Schmidt explained. “I’ll try to minimise my errors.
“We’re trying to work it out as best we can.”
But he acknowledged there was still a lot of work ahead.
“We’ve tried to even narrow down, see right now what would the 31 look like, what would the 46 look like. Would it be 47 or 45?” he said
“I think it is really difficult. Today was another piece in the puzzle to give ourselves a little more clarity.
“We’ll go to Belfast on Saturday and get together on Sunday and start to work out how we think things are shaping.”