At some point today Joe Schmidt will reveal his first international match-day squad and starting 15 to his players — though not to the public — and Eoin Reddan is adamant he hasn’t a clue what to expect.
The Leinster scrum-half is used to such uncertainties after the Kiwi’s three years as head coach at the province, when the former Wasps player was well-versed in the reality of starting one week and reverting to back-up the next.
Yet, with Conor Murray and Isaac Boss also vying for the nod at scrum-half this weekend, one of them will have no active role to play and will instead watch the first November international in his civvies.
“With Joe, as usual, you can’t really tell,” said Reddan. “It’s very hard to tell anything at the moment, to be honest. I genuinely mean that. You could be watching from the stand on Saturday, or you could be in the No 9 shirt.
“That applies to all three of us. There’s probably guys outside the squad who have been playing well as well. Kieran Marmion has been playing well all year as well. It’s good for Irish rugby, we’ve got a good lot of strength in depth in that area.”
Reddan is, in some ways, playing catch-up.
A broken leg suffered in the Six Nations game against France last March saw him sidelined for the remainder of the season, including the summer when Conor Murray’s stock soared whilst on Lions duty in Australia.
Boss, too, was busy, proving to be a linchpin player for a Les Kiss-led Ireland on their two-match tour to North America and the former Ulster man got the nod last month for Leinster’s two European games as well.
Yet the suspicion is that Reddan offers a different style to both Murray — who is again expected to be first in the queue — and Boss and that he will re-establish his place in the Irish 23 over the course of the next month.
“There’s probably more up for grabs with a new coach involved. At the same time, whether you’re playing or not, I’ve been involved in a few squads that have won things and, to be honest, whether we had the best players or not I don’t really know.
“Some of the teams we played against maybe we should never have beaten. People talk about why Clermont haven’t won the Heineken Cup and those kind of things — the squad atmosphere is very important.
“How you perform in whatever role you’re given can be a big difference. It’s not obvious, but over the long run it’s a very important part of the game. The more strength we get in all positions in Ireland now, the more important that will become. It probably wasn’t an issue a few years ago because you had genuine No 1s and guys who were genuine No 2s. Nowadays you’re just going to have to play where you’re put, put your best foot forward for your country.
“If that’s in training where no-one sees it, well then that’s what you do.”
Reddan has been pretty happy with his form in the early stages of the season, even if Matt O’Connor did opt to use him off the bench in the big games against Ospreys and Castres, but shifting Murray is a big ask after the Munster man’s time in Oz.
“Well, look, he’s obviously been difficult to shift so far. He played well on the Lions tour and he’s played well since he came back. It’s hard to say. I’m not the coach. If I was I know who I’d pick, but I’m not, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
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