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Monday 23 July 2018

Three things to keep coach Schmidt awake at night . . .

James Ryan is tackled by Guilhem Guirado of France Pic: Sportsfile
James Ryan is tackled by Guilhem Guirado of France Pic: Sportsfile

There are those out the who want all the skills of Jordan Larmour, Joey Carbery, when match fit, and Garry Ringrose, when fit, to be sewn into the fabric of Ireland's game.

It is all very well to call for new blood when your head isn't on the block. Joe Schmidt is careful about how he introduces new players and how he uses the old ones.

The Kiwi is a learned man, who learned more on Saturday than he has for a while about what he has got.

There are decisions to be made which will keep him up at night this week.

1. JACOB STOCKDALE

The clamour for Ulster's Jacob Stockdale and Leinster's Larmour to be unleashed on the Six Nations is rooted in how they can cause tries to be scored rather than conceded.

Now, maybe, Joe Schmidt replaced Stockdale for another reason, other than the fact he was partly at fault for the only try of the game.

It is a blink-of-an-eye break in concentration that can ruin all the best-laid plans.

Stockdale is a phenomenal athlete with the brightest of futures ahead.

But the defensive issues revealed against Leinster at The RDS, ad in other big games, were again evident in his play.

Schmidt has to choose between building Stockdale's confidence against Italy with another start or rewarding Fergus McFadden, Andrew Conway or even Larmour for what they can bring.

2. SHOULD FURLONG GO THE DISTANCE?

The tight-head has been elevated to Ireland's third most important player behind Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray.

From the Wexford man's 20 caps, he has gone the full 80-minute distance once, against Wales in last year's Six Nations.

Like Sexton and Murray, the drop down in standard from Furlong to John Ryan is significant.

For instance, the French gave Ryan his 'wings' - this is rugby speak for lifting a prop off his feet - at a late scrum to hand Anthony Belleau a shot to ruin Ireland.

Would that have happened if a physically depleted Furlong had been there? We will never know.

In truth, Ryan has done well for Ireland when trusted and Andrew Porter is fast becoming a legitimate back-up option.

Will there be a change on the bench for Italy? Perhaps.

Will Furlong keep whoever is there off the pitch? Probably not. Schmidt needs more than one man.

3. RYAN IS FOR REAL

The Leinster second row is a sure-fire Ireland captain of the future.

He is an action-based leader with the physical gifts, drive and love for detail to be counted among the best in the game.

The 21-year-old rookie led Ireland's tackle count (12) with none missed for 27 grueling, energy-sapping metres, making the gain line more often than not.

He was third best in the carrying department (15) to CJ Stander (20) and Bundee Aki (16).

These are the kind of statistics that scratch the surface of what the skilled big man provides.

It is scary to suggest how good Ryan, a fast learner, can become with a run of games.

Does Schmidt keep Ryan going when Devin Toner needs to feel the love of selection?

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