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Wednesday 19 September 2018

Ireland coach not afraid to make hard choices

Ireland's Luke Marshall. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Luke Marshall. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

COACH Joe Schmidt is not afraid to lose. He hates to lose. But, he's not afraid of it.

That is what has already set him apart from predecessors Eddie O'Sullivan and Declan Kidney in the opening days of his three-year contract.

He will not wait for the misfortune of injury to force his hand, taking control of his destiny by blooding Luke Marshall and Devin Toner against Australia and opting for Eoin Reddan over Conor Murray at scrum-half.

"I think we have got to try and get prepared as best we can be for what the future holds," he said.

"If we don't do that then we get very narrow in our selection and I think experience would tell us over the last two years we will be missing some of our players some of the time.

"The fact is Paul (O'Connell) and Brian (O'Driscoll) have not been on the same field in a Test jersey for two years and if that happens again then we have to try to be as prepared as we can be."

The risk in selection is clear to see especially in the choice of Eoin Reddan "in place of" Conor Murray, the Lions scrum-half losing out in what would appear to be a decision based on the tempo Schmidt wants at half-back.

"We would be the first to acknowledge that Australia are one of the world powers in international rugby. They are going to be incredibly tough to beat and we feel we have to put a good team out against them.

"If you do let them loose, they will cause some damage. For us, there is a massive challenge in limiting their opportunities, particularly with the distribution base of (Will) Genia and Quade Copper."

The Irish back row of Peter O'Mahony, Seán O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip will be instrumental in creating havoc at the breakdown and in attack for a backline that could need some time to click into gear.

The Wallabies are that much further down the road to recovery, showing away to Argentina, New Zealand and Italy, in three of their last four matches, that they understand the menu of moves.

Schmidt has preached the value of patience as the players learn to instinctively know where they should be and what they have to do.

This could just be too much, too soon for Ireland.

Verdict: Australia

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, L Marshall, F McFadden; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Australia: I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuridrani, M Toomua, N Cummins; Q Cooper, W Genia; J Slipper, S Moore, S Kepu, R Simmons, J Horwill, S Fardy, M Hooper, B Mowen (capt).

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