Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt has spoken about dropping Leinster’s Rabo Pro12 semi-final saviour Ian Madigan ahead of Ireland’s tour to Argentina.
Madigan came off the bench last Saturday to rescue Leinster’s Pro12 ambitions with a try, but has to settle for a place on the emerging Ireland squad who face Russia, Uruguay and Romania in Romania.
“We believe to only take two scrum halves would be very very difficult, so we have gone for three scrum halves. To go with six halves would have been a real tightening of numbers. The thing for Ian is he hasn’t had a lot of game time recently. I’ve had a really good discussion with him. He is going to come in and train with us, but he will go on the emerging tour and will give him and the likes of Ian Keatley time to get game time over there. We will still be keeping a close eye on that group.”
Schmidt has given Sean O’Brien, Tommy Bowe, Gordon D’Arcy and Cian Healy the summer off to focus on getting back to full fitness and get a pre-season behind them with the likes of Sean Cronin and Dan Tuohy also mentioned among those given a break.
“It’s really just player management. There are guys who have had continuous niggly injuries that are going to be given a good amount of time in the pre-season to recover from those. Obviously Seanie has come back and played very few minutes. It was a discussion I had with both players (O’Brien and Tommy Bowe). There is a number of other players like Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Dan Tuohy who we would feel are better served by getting a window to fully recover. Also, a number of them will have accumulated a number of very brief pre-seasons by the time they go away on June tours, Lions tours and the like.”
Schmidt hopes that the team can perform during the tour and retain the consistency which they gathered during their triumphant Six Nations Championship. The Kiwi felt his side didn’t get over the line in their performance against the All Blacks back in November but that they bounced back in their successful Six Nations tournament.
“Even though we didn’t quite beat England in the Six Nations, they’re a super team and that’s a very big test to do that. We worked our way through that very well and the challenge for the group is to maintain a consistent high level performance. That would be the primary thing. And, as Paul said, to build a bit depth and competition for those places, to give players an opportunity to demonstrate that they’re at a level. Because any time you go to Argentina it’s going to be combative.”
While Darren Cave and Luke Marshall are the only centres in the squad, Schmidt is hoping that Robbie Henshaw, Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls can get game time at centre. But with Leinster to play in the Rabo Pro12 final in two weeks there may still be some need for replacements and Schmidt knows there are a options there if needed.
“I’ve to cross my fingers really. There’s not a lot we can do about that. There are ten Leinster players coming on tour and we just have to hope that they’re fully fit at the end of the Pro12 final. Some things we can do about that is having players on standby. We’ve identified players we’ll confirm at the end of camp that are on standby. Some are in with us training, guys like Ian Madigan who would step in if there was an injury, potentially even an injury in the back three.
There’s Craig Gilroy who is very much starting to find his form and his footwork again, he’s another guy who wasn’t far away from tour. Tommy O’Donnell slipped off the radar a little bit and probably missed his selection in the last few weeks for Munster. So those guys are still very much in our thinking. Even guys like Mike McCarthy who picked up a bit of an injury and wasn’t available to play last week. If he gets his way through the game it just adds a little bit of depth and who we can go to in various positions.”
Cillian O’Conchuir, Pundit Arena.
Ireland Squad To Tour Argentina:
Rory Best (Ulster), James Cronin (Munster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Marty Moore (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster, capt), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Damian Varley (Munster)
Darren Cave (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Felix Jones (Munster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Racing-Metro/FRA), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster)
June 7: Argentina v Ireland, First Test, Resistencia
June 14: Argentina v Ireland, Second Test, Tucuman