JOE SCHMIDT BACKED up his commitment to reward form players with international call-ups when he selected four additional players to join his injury-hit Ireland squad.
Andrew Trimble, Martin Moore, Roger Wilson and Donncha O’Callaghan have all performed well for their province’s in recent weeks and have been selected on merit. Six players — Sean O’Brien, Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Mike Ross and Cian Healy — will miss all or most of the squad’s training sessions this week.
The scrumhalf department, however, is in rude health. Kieran Marmion and Paul Marshall are on the outside, looking in, as Isaac Boss, Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan spin attacking threads at Carton House. The 9′s may be fighting fit but a citing cloud looms for Murray and he may find himself kicking his heels for at least two weeks if found guilty of elbowing Glasgow’s Niko Matawalu.
Boss, as Leinster’s starting scrumhalf in the Heineken Cup, is in line to benefit if Murray is sent to the naughty step. The Kiwi-born scrumhalf would love to start against Samoa but insists he would only be satisfied if he was selected on merit, not circumstance.
Boss said, “Conor’s thing is very unfortunate for him but hopefully he is available for all our Tests because we want our strongest possible team… He’s had a disrupted start to the season and would, obviously, have liked to get a few more games so he’ll be raring to go.”
Despite giving away a couple of inches to Murray on the height chart, Boss feels his selection would not force a sea-change in Schmidt’s plans for the November Series. He commented:
Conor and I are pretty similar. He’s got a good, all-round game and he’s a proven, effective runner. He’s got a bit more size than myself and Redser but we try to mix it up a little bit. You don’t go out there to be a different No.9, you have to perform your role for the team.”
When it is suggested to Boss that his club form may elevate him to a starting role, his response is frank. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been playing my best rugby as I’ve got a lot of things I need to work on,” he admitted. “We had a couple of big cup games [with Leinster] but you’re always thinking ahead to the next game… I wouldn’t say I’m playing my best rugby by a long shot.”
Boss and Reddan have the Jonny Sexton factor in their favour but notes Murray’s burgeoning Test partnership with his former Leinster teammate. Schmidt has often favoured Boss for big Heineken Cup matches and the scrumhalf is hopeful his compatriot will continue the trend at Test level.
He said, “I haven’t been playing [for Ireland] as much as I would have liked. I’ve been in and around the squad. I’ve not lost faith, I’ve always been… the thing is you’ve got to concentrate on your core, which is your provincial role. If you get the call you have to make the most of it.
“I was a bit disappointed I didn’t get more opportunities [under Declan Kidney] but I’m grateful for the caps I have. I’m happy to be here and just have to try my best. There’s many other players in the same boat as myself. I’ve got to perform well in camp and then we’ll see what happens.”
- Audio courtesy of 98FM
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