There are many factors to explain Ireland’s success in international rugby since the 2015 World Cup but one of them is the ease at which Joe Schmidt has integrated young Irish players into the demands of international Test rugby.
Jordan Larmour, James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale are just three of many young players who have not only established themselves but have thrived at international level since their debuts in recent times.
Many of these players have been highlighted as stars of the future from a young age and their development nurtured so that when they make the step up on the biggest stage, it doesn’t take too much time to adapt.
Of course, much of this must be credited to the work that goes on behind the scenes; from talent identification programmes, coaching at underage level, to the development pathways which exist throughout a young player’s career until they reach senior provincial level.
Schmidt plays a big role in this and Rory Best spoke about the “frightening” level of knowledge that the Kiwi head coach has on potential future Ireland internationals.
“I think there’s no doubt that Joe [Schmidt], when you ask him about Schools Cup rugby, he knows a lot of the players coming through at sort of 15, 16, 17 and 18. It’s frightening how much he knows. They sort of earmark guys to see how they adapt into professional rugby. If somebody is deemed good enough to come in, we don’t make a song and dance about is he in or is he an apprentice or is he going to play or is he what?”
Best continued: “We train regularly during the Six Nations with the U20s, so you get to see these guys from a very young age and I think the system is bringing young players through but I think the environment in the provinces and more so within Ireland, creates somewhere where they can flourish.
It may be something which is overlooked but a lot of Ireland’s current generation wouldn’t have experienced or had any memories of the bad times in Irish rugby; no 60-0 thumpings by the All Blacks, no World Cup heartbreaks – just success and winning.
“I think the beauty of some of these boys is that some of them weren’t even born when we were having tough times, and certainly they weren’t old enough to remember them.
“They don’t remember us getting beaten by 40, 50 points, 60 points in New Zealand.
“They weren’t part of set-ups, so they don’t have those skeletons or hang-ups, that maybe some of the older guys have.”
The next step for a lot of these players takes place tomorrow as Ireland host Argentina in their second international of the November series.