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Thursday 14 December 2017

Joe Schmidt stands by his choices

Ireland coach puts his faith in Keatley and Murphy ahead of opening tussle

Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt during squad training
Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt during squad training

Joe Schmidt doesn't sleep too much. It looked like it out in Carton House as the Ireland coach set about explaining the rugby reasoning behind his latest Ireland selection.

And this is just week one.

The outward signs of fatigue soon faded as he entered into the give and take of examination by media.

Why Ian Keatley? Why Jordi Murphy?

The amount of confidence from selection that surges through a player can be directly measured by the simple fact Schmidt is making the decision.

"I think you have to be confident, confidence, to a degree, is contagious," he answered.

"If I show a lack of confidence in players, players are going to start questioning themselves and you don't have time and space to question yourself when there's a lot of traffic and it's big and it's physical."

Schmidt will have to do this season what he did last season, bring through one or two, who have not been on the radar.

"I'm very aware of the players who are missing and what they achieved last year," he said.

"The player of the year in Andrew Trimble, the guy who broke the most tackles was Dave Kearney. Johnny scored the most points and the most tries as well.

"For us, we have the personnel we have and I'm confident, but always with a degree of trepidation, about how Saturday comes out because I think the Italian players will be highly motivated."

Even Schmidt won't know for certain how Keatley and Murphy will react in the Stadio Olimpico.

Some shrink under the spotlight; others blossom.

"We're going to see some guys play and they're going to be new guys in positions or guys who haven't spent a lot of time with us in those positions," said Schmidt.

"You're probably going to see and I'm going to see at the same time how they manage to cope and whether they evolve and get comfortable as the game goes on, to be able to control it and deliver.

"I'm desperately keen that they do, as are they."

First up Keatley.

"Part of it is his combination with Conor Murray. They play week-to-week and they play well together. That understanding is very good," he voiced.

"It is also that Ian Keatley has had that rhythm of playing at ten on a regular basis, whereas Ian Madigan hasn't.

"He has played a lot at twelve and, coming off the bench, that flexibility of going straight into twelve or straight into ten is a nice thing to have as well."

The signs have been solid from Keatley. There was that drop goal to kill of Sale Sharks and that penalty to steal a losing bonus-point away from Clermont-Auvergne.

"It is probably a vote of confidence in Ian Keatley in that he has controlled games well, he's finished games off well. For Munster in clutch moments.

"That has given us a degree of confidence that he can do the same thing for us.

"As I said about the clutch kicking, he's nailing those and allowing the team that he's playing for to get their nose in front at the right time or to get the right field position at the right time.

CAPABLE

"He's got a very capable passing game and I do think he's got a running game that can threaten as well."

Schmidt has taken the decision to go with Murphy even though Jamie Heaslip trained fully yesterday.

"What we're missing is a lot of experience.

"I don't think Jordi can bring that because he doesn't have the same experience and the same accuracy.

"What Jordi has to bring for us is just a nice security at the base of the scrum, some nice clarity in the defensive line for what his role is at eight.

"He has had a really solid season since Christmas and that should give him confidence." There's that word again - confidence. Ireland are going nowhere without it.

Over and above the impact of individuals comes the cohesion of the collective.

This is all about winning with or without style.

"People have spoken a fair bit about style," he said.

"I think in last year's Six Nations we scored the most tries, we scored the most points.

"I think in the autumn we still scored four tries against South Africa and Australia - the two big teams.

"If you're doing that, then I think no matter which way you're doing that you are cutting your cloth and we tend to try to cut our cloth on a weekly basis.

"We tinker with what we're doing and we try and be effective in what we do."

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