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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Marmion has moulded his game to fit Schmidt's shape

Ireland scrum-half Kieran Marmion. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ireland scrum-half Kieran Marmion. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

There are men who fit the Joe Schmidt mould and men who don’t.

If ever there was one who dropped into the latter category, it was Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion.

He came into the professional game as a run-first option at half-back, a mediocre passer of the ball and an even worse kicker of it. 

If you don’t win Schmidt over, your career with him is as good as over.

That is the environment the Irish internationals have operate in since Schmidt came to power in 2013.

The systems and structures are bigger than any individual within it.  That is why it took Simon Zebo  years to become flavour of the month, before his decision to depart for France at the end of the season.

In the same way, Marmion had to make a ‘certain Joe,’ out of a ‘Doubting Thomas’.

English-born, Welsh-raised Marmion has been involved with Ireland, at age-grade level, since the age of 16, making the move to Connacht where he debuted in 2012. 

His work-rate means he has never been cont ent to leave his weaknesses at the front door at work out West or in Carton House.  

Steadily, the service has turned from bronze into silver without quite matching that of Conor Murray.

The bombs are detonating closer to their intended landing spots.  

“I’ve got a bit more time under my belt, I know the systems a bit better and know what’s expected a bit more,” said the 25-year-old. “I guess that gives you confidence and, hopefully, I’ll bring that at the weekend.”

What Marmion has always offered is a change-up in terms of his breaking game honed by the instincts of a natural sniper. He does appear to be still one step ahead of Leinster’s Luke McGrath.

Of course, there are two sides to every ball, attack and defence, and Ireland will have to have their wits about them this Saturday (KO v5.30) at the Aviva Stadium.

The threat of Fiji still rests with their restless nature when it comes to entertainment.

Their coach John McKee will push the importance of the set-piece as a starting point this week. From there, the freedom of expression that comes so easily can lead to danger for those who fail to shut them down at source.

The same rules apply to Fiji as they do to the Springboks.

Ireland have to win the ball cleanly, keep it and when the time is right, use the ball judiciously.     

“It’s a different challenge this week. They have a lot of individuals who are seriously talented,” said Marmion.

“Looking through their profiles, and the athleticism and power, the off-loading that they bring, I think it’s going to be a challenge, it will be tough.

“That’s the challenge, to make sure we’re on top of that and we’re ready for them.”

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