Joe Schmidt insists omitting rising stars Garry Ringrose and Jack O’Donoghue from his Six Nations squad will be to theirs and Ireland’s long-term benefit.
The clamour for Leinster outside centre Ringrose, 21 three days ago, to be brought into the squad came after a series of impressive moments for his province.
That it has been led by Brian O’Driscoll only piled the pressure on the man who was his coach at Leinster and Ireland.
Schmidt recognised the comments of Ireland’s iconic former No.13 commanded respect.
Yet having left Ringrose and Munster’s exciting back-row O’Donoghue out of his 35-player squad for the opening two games of the Championship against Wales and France, the Ireland coach claimed he and the IRFU were investing in its young stars of the future, not ignoring them.
“Drico is iconic and therefore his words are going to carry more weight,” Schmidt said.
“What is ironic is that we had Garry Ringrose in for a week in camp before the November Series the year before last so he is not a guy who has suddenly sprung onto our radar.
“He has come in a few other times as well. We’ve tried to encourage him to be an extra part of the squad.
"What Garry Ringrose needs now is to keep building his confidence.
“Is putting him in against 110 kilos of hurtling Jamie Roberts or 104 kilos of footwork and fend that Jonathan Davies can deliver (the right thing to do?)
"Or is it sitting in the squad and not playing or is it him building that confidence that he’s started to demonstrate through the PRO12 and one European start?
"This is a great window for him to get game-time. It doesn’t mean we’re not investing in him.”
Ringrose starts at outside centre for Leinster tonight as Leo Cullen’s side look to win an eighth Guinness Pro12 game in a row when they go to Newport to face the Dragons while O’Donoghue is expected to start for Munster in tomorrow’s game in Parma against Zebre.
“It’s no different with Jack O’Donoghue,” Schmidt continued. “He’s probably been moved around because Tommy (O’Donnell) got injured.
"Jack’s mostly played at the back of the scrum and he’s been playing on the open side of the scrum and it’s a different challenge for him but he’s been so robust and resilient.
“He’s a player we’ve earmarked for a while. I watched those U20s play against New Zealand in that third-fourth play-off and (Leinster loosehead prop) Peter Dooley is another who impressed us. Those guys are starting to work their way through the system.
“Do we accelerate the system and get them in there at the risk of them losing a bit of confidence or potentially getting them knocked around or injured?
"Josh van der Flier’s a good example, Ultan Dillane is a good example of guys who are starting to feed in, starting to apply some of that pressure and hopefully that will drive on the guys who are currently there or, let’s be honest, they’ll drive past them and they’ll get the jerseys.
"So it’s very competitive, hopefully, and a longer term view.”
Schmidt, speaking at the RBS 6 Nations launch, said he continued to enjoy “banter” with O’Driscoll but implied he was the better qualified person to assess players’ suitability for selection.
“We try to work within the bubble that’s productive and what’s most productive is trying to get a squad that has a balance to it, trying to make sure that we have players who are physically ready and have the experience to go in and compete at what is an incredibly tough championship and so it is a fine balance.
“I’d be the first to say, there’s no way I get every decision right because I don’t think any human does.
"What you try to do is, if you work harder than anyone else to have a look at the person’s game, to communicate with that person and get a sense of where they’re at and what they can feel confident doing and then you make the decision.
“One of the advantages for me is I have access to all that information and the player to try and base those decisions upon and even then I don’t get it right. Some of the time hopefully I do.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved