Johnny Holland’s fine form for Munster has not gone unnoticed by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt who wants to see the out-half put himself into international contention next season.
Schmidt was forced to call up Ian Madigan to the Ireland squad this week after Johnny Sexton was ruled out of the tour because of shoulder surgery, but the New Zealander said that Holland’s performances for Munster had warranted consideration.
The 24-year-old broke into the Munster team in March and scored 47 points as the province won four of their last seven games to qualify for the Champions Cup. However, Holland is still feeling the after effects of his year-long recovery from a severe hamstring injury and Schmidt felt that it was prudent to allow the player take a break this summer.
“I’ve had a really good conversation with Johnny. I think Johnny was a little bit fatigued at the end of the season. He kind of came in through that massive pressure period,” Schmidt said.
“Johnny is a guy we have certainly kept an eye on, and the thing with Johnny is, he’s not a really young kid either, he’s mid-20s. He’s just had a very bad run of injuries so one of the things we didn’t want to do was take a fatigued player at any rate.
“I think he’ll really benefit now from a full pre-season and then a full build-up into next season to put his best foot forward.”
Schmidt’s plans for the tour to South Africa were severely disrupted by the toll that the Guinness Pro12 final took on four of the Leinster players who were already included in the panel.
Sexton had shoulder surgery this week while Luke Fitzgerald’s knee injury was flagged by Schmidt on Monday, however, both Rob and Dave Kearney will now miss the tour due to respective hamstring and calf injuries.
Schmidt was initially questioned about the lack of Connacht players in his squad after the province lifted their first ever league title last weekend, but now winger Matt Healy and full back Tiernan O’Halloran have been brought in alongside Ulster’s Craig Gilroy.
It is hard to say if either of the Connacht men will earn their first caps on tour, but Schmidt is certainly pleased to view the pair at close quarters.
“I’m going to know more about Tiernan O’Halloran, more about Matt Healy in a week-to-week environment. I’ve been down to Connacht. I’ve seen them train. I’ve certainly seen them play a lot of times,” Schmidt said.
“But, you get to know a player more and you see him slot in and you say, ‘there’s the level, here it is now, how will he go? Gee, you’re coping really well.’ That’s another stride you can take, so this is a really good opportunity for us.”
Updated Ireland squad - Forwards (18):
F Bealham, U Dillane, Q Roux (all Connacht), S Cronin, T Furlong, J Heaslip, J McGrath, J Murphy, M Ross, R Ruddock, R Strauss, D Toner (all Leinster), D Kilcoyne, D Ryan, CJ Stander (all Munster), R Best (capt), I Henderson, S Reidy (all Ulster).
M Healy, R Henshaw, K Marmion, T O’Halloran (all Connacht), E Reddan, I Madigan (both Leinster), K Earls, C Murray (both Munster), C Gilroy, P Jackson, L Marshall, S Olding, J Payne, A Trimble (all Ulster).
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