Eoin Reddan believes Ireland can be more assured about what they will bring to the table at the World Cup in England later this year than was the case in New Zealand in 2011 or France eight years ago.
In 2007, Eddie O’Sullivan’s squad talked and thought big, only to flop completely in failing to escape their pool. Last time out, Declan Kidney’s side blew the tournament wide open by defeating Australia in the pool stages, but subsequently fell flat in the quarter-final against Wales.
If Joe Schmidt has introduced anything into the Irish set-up, it is a consistency of, not just performance, but preparation too. Reddan touched on that yesterday at the announcement of the Ireland squad to face the Barbarians in Limerick on Thursday.
This time does feel different, he admitted.
“Before 2007, we were playing really well. We got great results. Certainly, from what I knew of the game then, it was much harder to put your finger on why you were winning. Is it the other team, is it you? Are you delivering something special?
“In 2011, we were very much up and down going into it. We had a great game against England here in the Aviva to stop them winning the Grand Slam about seven months before, which gave us a great belief, but we still weren’t sure.”
The Leinster scrum-half spoke about how maybe Kidney’s squad didn’t deal with the postscript to that win against Australia as well as they might have and how he was bemused to be clapped on arriving home — despite the loss to Wales — for the defeat of Australia weeks before.
All that will inform the squad this time.
“You’d be like: ‘OK, we beat Australia — did we do this, this and this, and can we do it again?’ [That] would be a question you’d be asking and, hopefully, ignore either positive or negative criticism from outside,” said Reddan who appeared at the previous two tournaments.
“This time, I am more sure about what we’ll deliver but, again, it doesn’t mean anything about results. It just means we’ll be able to deliver X, Y and Z and, hopefully, deal with those ups and downs a bit better, because you won’t be too worried about results.”
Reddan is part of a 27-man squad named yesterday for the meeting with the Barbarians in Thomond Park. It contains a mixture of seasoned pros, such as himself, some returning faces and seven others yet to be capped at senior level. There were no Munster players included in the party, given they have a PRO12 final to prepare for this week, while the decision was made not to call on any Connacht representatives after their gut-wrenching Rugby Champions Cup play-off loss to Gloucester on Sunday after extra-time.
Other rested for the occasion due to a heavy workload of late include Jared Payne, Darren Cave and Iain Henderson, while a glut of other Ulstermen — Chris Henry, Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall and Dan Tuohy — are welcomed back into the camp after various lengths away for a variety of reasons.
For the Leinster trio of Cian Kelleher, Colm O’Shea and Luke McGrath, as well as Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey, this offers a glimpse at a possible future beyond the World Cup, though Ireland defence coach Les Kiss has been impressed with the number of players raising their hands for selection for the 2015 tournament of late.
“There has been a nice level of players, in terms of quantity, that have sort of asked the question of us. The obvious positions you look are in the tighthead prop. You’ve got Tadhg Furlong and Rodney Ah You still performing and we’ve got to keep that broad a base as possible in terms of options available to us. It’s good to see some of those.
“With our number 10, with [Jonathan Sexton] still progressing [in the Top 14] at the moment, we’ve got Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley. They have been important in how they’ve kept performing in moving their teams around. We’ve certainly seen in a couple of those, that it’s important to have depth in each position that we can rely on.”
Forwards: Michael Bent, Jack Conan, Robbie Diack, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie Heaslip (capt), Chris Henry, Rob Herring, Jack McGrath, Ben Marshall, Jordi Murphy, Mike Ross, Rhys Ruddock, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, Dan Tuohy.
Backs: Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Dave Kearney, Cian Kelleher, Stuart McCloskey, Luke McGrath, Ian Madigan, Luke Marshall, Colm O’Shea, Eoin Reddan, Noel Reid.
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