IRELAND COACH JOE SCHMIDT has called on inside centre Gordon D’Arcy to take his chance against wales on Saturday and lock down a starting role for the rest of the Six Nations.
D’Arcy comes into the Ireland team in place of Ulster’s Luke Marshall for the visit of Wales to Dublin. Schmidt said, “It is good to have Gordon back but, at the same time, Luke did a very good job [against Scotland]. He gave us a couple of turnovers… he added good value. The challenge is for Gordon to do something similar.”
Asked if Marshall, who was released to his province for Friday’s Pro12 game with Ospreys, would be affected by his omission from the Irish squad, Schmidt replied, “It’s unaffected. Luke is an incredibly positive young man. He’s in good shape.” The Irish coach added:
It wasn’t a close call in terms of freshness. Gordon obviously didn’t play at all and had the weekend off. He was able to freshen himself up and get a really good start to the week. Last week it was the reverse, a bit of a stomach bug, and Luke got a good start to the week. That just clarified the decision for us. It’s kind of in the reverse last week.”
Schmidt was speaking at the announcement of the Ireland team to face Wales at Lansdowne Road this weekend. The New Zealander also welcomed team captain Paul O’Connell back to the fold.
O’Connell missed Ireland’s opening win over Scotland with a chest infection but insists he will be fit and firing for the visit of Warren Gatland’s Wales. “I have a small bit of a cough [today], it’s not too serious. It was a bit embarrassing really [to miss Scotland]. I got a bit of slagging from some of my old old-school teammates.” The lock is finishing up his course of antibiotics today.
Paul O’Connell and Joe Schmidt at this afternoon’s team announcement. Pic: IRFU TV
O’Connell revealed he was in shock at this afternoon’s announcement that Munster coach Rob Penney, and assistant Simon Mannix, would be leaving the province at the end of the season. “I’d heard rumours but didn’t know a lot about it,” said O’Connell. “It’s disappointing but he has to do what is best for him and his family. Hopefully Munster will act quickly to put something in place to follow from what Rob has done in the past two years.”
O’Connell “presumes” former teammate Anthony Foley — now forwards coach at Munster — will put his hand up for the top job. “He has spent a lot of time waiting for his opportunity,” O’Connell said.
Schmidt allayed fears of over Cian Healy’s ankle and revealed his squad had a stripped down training schedule this week due to their six-day turnaround in tournament fixtures. The former Leinster coach did not give away any match tactics for the Welsh but noted by ‘trying to go through them, you don’t get too much success.”
O’Connell added, “If we can repeat last year’s performance, especially the first half, we’ll be happy.”
– Additional reporting by Murray Kinsella
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