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Saturday 3 December 2016

Simon Easterby: It is about the here and now for Ireland

It's too soon to say Cian Healy will hit or miss the World Cup

Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby at yesterday’s Irish press conference at Carton House, Maynooth.
Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby at yesterday’s Irish press conference at Carton House, Maynooth.

It isn't that long ago Simon Easterby was one of the first names on Eddie O'Sullivan's team-sheet.

The Ireland forwards coach has the stinging memory from the 2007 World Cup debacle to remind him of what needs to happen in the weeks ahead.

"World Cup is about the here and the now, not about what went on a year or even six months ago," he said.

"It's about the guys who are in the best form at this current time."

Of course, this argument will not apply to Ireland's untouchables, the elite internationals who will drive the environment.

It is in and around the last half-dozen places that the real war will exist out at Carton House, where friendships will be put on hold, and at The Millennium Stadium on Saturday in the first of Ireland's four warm-up internationals.

The pragmatic Easterby sees it as "a line in the sand," on the other side of which they will find out where they are.

"Yeah, I think you've got to respect these games because they are Test matches. Also, individuals have certain targets, certain focuses that they want to bring to each game

"We don't want individuals working on their own," he stated.

"We want it to be a collective and make sure that when we get guys going into situations in a Test match, they might be inexperienced in there maybe, but we want to make sure that we're accurate and they make each other look good.

"And are really supportive of each other, even though they might be battling it out for that one or two spots in the same position."

The team announcement tomorrow should show which of those on the fringe have made the greatest impression.

"There are certain positions which you would probably say are locked down, but it's also a case that the World Cup comes around once every four years and you've got to be on form."

It was then he turned to personal experience as a measure to recall the potholes of relying on the past when the present is all that matters.

"We saw that in 2007. Some of us weren't on form and selection was, sometimes, back then, pre-conditioned," he said.

"That's where we have to be conscious. Yes, there is going to be an element of the group that will have been involved before, but we've also got to pick the right team for now, not for six months or a year's time.

"This isn't about development. It's about going to a World Cup and performing to the best of our ability.

"There might be guys who miss out and there might be guys who come and you might be surprised by their selection," he offered, introducing a note of intrigue.

The update on Cian Healy's rehabilitation from neck surgery was short on detail. He is making progress, just not enough to be certain of anything yet.

Leinster's Luke Fitzgerald, Marty Moore and Seán Cronin are all making strong headway in their fight for fitness from shoulder surgeries.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has opted for four new caps in forwards Dom Day and Ross Moriarty and backs Tyler Morgan and Eli Walker in what is a shadow squad with all the incentive in the world to make an impact.

"We have been really impressed over the last few weeks. This is their opportunity to show what they can do on the international stage," he said.

"It's all about grasping the chance at this level. It's going to be a huge occasion -Ireland coming to town, a packed Millennium Stadium and players with everything to play for."

WALES (v Ireland): H Amos; A Cuthbert, T Morgan, S Williams (capt), E Walker; J Hook, M Phillips; N Smith, R Hibbard, A Jarvis, J Ball, D Day, R Moriarty, J Tipuric, D Baker.

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