Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt looks set to ring the changes for Ireland’s November international series test against Canada in Dublin on Saturday.
With the heroics of their victory over world champions New Zealand still fresh in the minds of players and fans alike, Schmidt must, this week, pull his squad together to focus on the tricky job ahead.
Canada are regarded as minnows of world rugby. Ranked 18 in the world, the should pose little threat to Ireland, in theory. In reality however, the Canadians always play with huge hearts and will likely put up a far stiffer challenge than their world ranking would suggest.
For the second game of the series, Schmidt will look to blood new members of the squad in order to start building an experienced band of players for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Though already vastly experienced both for Ulster and Ireland, Paddy Jackson will be looking to get things back on track.
Following a massive tour of South Africa during the summer, the 24-year-old out-half bossed the Irish side throughout the three match series. Seeking to capitalise on a summer’s good work, Jackson was expected to feature prominently this month.
Off the field troubles however saw him withdraw from the squad for Ireland clash with the All Blacks at the weekend. He now looks set to return this weekend and will almost certainly start in the place of Johnny Sexton, who is being rested for the second New Zealand game on November 19th.
According to Ireland’s assistance coach, Simon Easterby, Jackson is working through some off-the-field issues.
“Paddy is dealing with things outside our environment which we will leave him to get on with. He is focused on trying to perform if he is selected to face Canada.”
“He led the team in South Africa in the summer under really difficult circumstances at times. He was assured and controlled and he is in good form.”
With Joey Carbery delivering an assured and emphatic 20 minutes against the All Blacks last Saturday, Jackson will need to be in top form in order to ensure it will be he would joins Sexton in the match day squad against New Zealand.
The only way to do that is to perform like we know he can against Canada. Anything less and he will be left behind by the emerging Carbery.
Ireland take on Canada at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, November 12th at 7:15pm.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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