39 DAYS AND counting.
The World Cup draws ever closer for Ireland, now ranked as the second best team in the international game. After comfortably dispatching a disjointed Wales team on Saturday, attention turns to the visit of Scotland.
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Monday morning’s review session will consign the 35-21 victory over Warren Gatland’s second string to the past, as preparation for the Scots begins in the afternoon.
O’Connell is likely to be involved against the Scots at the Aviva on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Vern Cotter’s men will hope to offer up a firmer test of Ireland’s ability this coming Saturday at the Aviva Stadium (KO 17.00), although the prospect of Joe Schmidt giving a handful of his front-liners starting chances means his side is likely to improve.
It is expected that captain Paul O’Connell will stretch his legs for the first time this season at the Dublin venue, while Schmidt might be tempted to put the likes of Tommy Bowe and Robbie Henshaw out for a gallop after his squad players impressed in Cardiff.
The Kiwi head coach has the difficult task of cutting his training squad by up to seven players this week too, meaning less experienced men like Jack Conan, Rob Herring, Craig Gilroy and Noel Reid may face the coming days with some trepidation.
Everything Ireland do now is built towards excelling in Pool D of the World Cup and another cohesive display against Scotland is part of that plan. Some may view these fixtures only as individual auditions, but Schmidt’s group see the summer Tests as an opportunity to build further on the form that brought them two Six Nations titles.
With that in mind, the victory over Wales offered further signs of the positive competition for places within Ireland’s squad, and the importance of the group as a whole.
This Ireland set-up is not just about O’Connell, Johnny Sexton and Murray. Those even on the very fringes of the group feel as important to the results as the try-scorers and public heroes.
Ryan made a big impression against Wales.
The most telling quotes from Ireland’s media work at Carton House last week were Schmidt’s when asked what good he sees in Donnacha Ryan, who went on to make a strong impression on his return to the international game against the Welsh.