Ireland have been rocked by injuries ahead of their summer tour of South Africa.
Although Joe Schmidt can be described as being a conservative coach, change is about to be forced on him due to the number of injuries suffered by some of Ireland’s leading players.
This week alone has seen, Johnny Sexton, Luke Fitzgerald and the Kearney brothers forced to withdraw from the squad. They join an extensive injury list that includes the likes of Tommy Bowe, Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo.
As a result, the Irish team that will take to the field at Newlands Stadium next Saturday will be radically different from the side that won the Six Nations Championship in 2015.
For Schmidt, this presents a massive challenge. Previously the Irish coach gave preference to players who understood the training methods and game plan employed by him. This meant players served an apprenticeship on the fringes before being included in match day squads.
Against South Africa, Schmidt will face the added difficulty of leaving both Tommy O’Donnell and Josh van der Flier at home. This means Ireland will most likely field an imbalanced backrow, featuring the out of form Jordi Murphy.
Although many would like to see Devin Toner dislodged from the second row, his importance in the lineout was highlighted during the Pro 12 final, when Leinster’s set piece malfunctioned.
With 6 ft 9 in Lood de Jager and 6 ft 8 in Eben Etzebeth likely to be in contention to start for the Springboks, Ireland will also need a line out option at the tail, increasing the necessity of starting Iain Henderson at blindside flanker.
This would leave CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip going head to head for the number eight jersey, a battle we would like the Munster man to win.
Schmidt’s decision to leave Stuart McCloskey out of the squad was a strange, even after he cited issues surrounding his ability to cope with a long season. Nevertheless, we believe he should have been selected and partnered Robbie Henshaw in the midfield.
Although he may not have picked them in his original squad, Schmidt has been forced to call in Matt Healy and Tiernan O’Halloran, and their form should be rewarded with a start.
- Jack McGrath
- Rory Best
- Finlay Bealham
- Ultan Dillane
- Devin Toner
- Iain Henderson
- Tommy O’Donnell
- CJ Stander
- Conor Murray
- Paddy Jackson
- Matt Healy
- Stuart McCloskey
- Robbie Henshaw
- Andrew Trimble
- Tiernan O’Halloran
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
Read More About: andrew trimble, cj stander, Conoer Murray, Devin Toner, finlay bealham, iain henderson, Ireland, jack mcgrath, Jamie Healsip, Joe Schmidt, matt healy, Paddy Jackson, peter o'mahony, robbie henshaw, Rory Best, Simon Zebo, south africa, springboks, stuart mccloskey, Tiernan O'Halloran, Tommy Bowe, tommy o'donnell, Ultan Dilliane