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Friday 9 December 2016

Schmidt covers almost all the bases with World Cup squad

8 August 2015; Darren Cave, Ireland, scores his side's second try. Rugby World Cup Warm-Up Match, Wales v Ireland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
8 August 2015; Darren Cave, Ireland, scores his side's second try. Rugby World Cup Warm-Up Match, Wales v Ireland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ian Madigan

It was a small but significant window into the mind of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

On the face of it, it seems a little late in the day to ask Ian Madigan to provide cover at scrum-half rather than full-back or inside centre.

Matt Giteau is doing the same for Australia. But the Wallaby played there earlier in his career and for Toulon this calendar year.

Ah, but this decision has been in the possibility pipeline for some time.

"I spoke to Ian about it last season, so it's not suddenly something," revealed Schmidt. Ian did some work on it in the off-season, so he has been quietly preparing himself for that potentially to happen.

"I have got to say, honestly, it wasn't what we were going to do, but we had discussions with players about potentially covering different positions because we knew we couldn't have total coverage with 31 players."

And there you have it. The man overlooks nothing.

There was more than a hint of truth in Madigan's assertion that he would play anywhere for Ireland.

The knock-on effect is that the Leinster utility back will concentrate on nailing the details to play at nine and ten.

Schmidt decided to remove the responsibility of being nearly all things to the backline by drafting in Darren Cave to cover 12 and 13 in what is a complete turnaround from December 2013 when the Ulster centre complained about his face not fitting in at Ireland.

On the contrary, Cave underpins all plans in the midfield where Schmidt's first choice partnership is still feeling its' way.

"It's a little bit of a manufactured midfield," said Schmidt.

"Robbie (Henshaw) hadn't played 12 until he came into this environment and Jared (Payne) played more full-back than 13.

"We wanted to get one specialist centre in there who could play 12 or 13.

"His (Cave) flexibility and positivity in the environment are real pluses for us."

This may also hint at how Schmidt is not convinced that either Keith Earls or Luke Fitzgerald can supply what he needs at outside centre.

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