Having established that today’s summer showdown at Twickenham is about as far removed from a “warm-up” as a summer showdown can be, both the English and Irish camps have also made clear that this is a Test match that dare not be treated in isolation of the bigger picture.
Joe Schmidt has called on Ross Byrne to make the most of his opportunity and stake a claim to a place in Ireland’s World Cup squad after handing the fly-half his first Test start against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
It does not take a mathematician to realise seven into five won’t go but the task facing Ireland team management as they juggle their half-back permutations for the upcoming World Cup may be up there with the work of the best Nobel Prize winners.
Ireland could be ready to hand inexperienced fly-halves Jack Carty and Ross Byrne their chances to capitalise on Joey Carbery’s injury with valuable game time in the toughest circumstances against England at Twickenham this Saturday.
The pressure may be on for Ireland’s World Cup hopefuls to press their claims for a seat on the plane to Japan next month but Andy Farrell has insisted the national team management will not ease the agony for their players until the very last minute.
If there can be such a thing as an upside for Mick McCarthy in seeing four players succumb to friendly fire on the training pitch — Shane Long having now followed Alan Browne, Mark Travers and Luca Connell out of the squad since preparations for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Denmark and Gibraltar began on the Algarve — it’s that none would have been likely to start in Copenhagen on Friday night.
Luca Connell has told Mick McCarthy that he is committed to playing for Ireland and the manager has further revealed that but for a thigh injury ruling him out, the Liverpool-born Bolton Wanderers midfielder would have been in with a real chance of at least a cameo in the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifier against Gibraltar.
Greg Cunningham has known more than a few hard knocks in his career but learning to roll with the punches didn’t make a doubly unrewarding season with Cardiff City — one which saw the club relegated from the Premier League and appearances in short supply for the Galway full back — any less easy to take.
So there was Mark Travers talking to us at Ireland base camp on the Algarve on Tuesday, buzzing with enthusiasm at his second international call-up and all teed-up not only to show off his golfing prowess to the rest of the squad but, more importantly, confirm on the training pitch that he would be ready to step into the breach, should anything befall Darren Randolph, for Ireland’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.
John Egan says it was only meant as “a bit of craic” and that it took him a mere 20 minutes to compose the words – and then only in his head, not on paper – so probably no-one was more surprised than Sheffield United’s Irish defender to see his celebratory ode to the club’s promotion to the Premier League go viral.
As the majority of the Irish squad for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers begin work at their training camp in Portugal today, Mick McCarthy says he has no fears that the 17-day-long run-up to the game against Denmark on June 7 will see any of his players fall victim to cabin fever.
Although it appeared initially as if Luca Connell was already in the final squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Denmark and Dublin, Mick McCarthy has clarified that the player’s retention for those games will probably depend on how the Bolton Wanderers rising star performs in Ireland’s training camp in Portugal.