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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 14 July, 2020

'I don't want them too frustrated': Detail not destruction key for O'Mahony and O'Brien on return

Schmidt is looking for the sort of ‘quality workrate’ Billy Holland provides from everyone in the pack.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IN JACK O’DONOGHUE, Ireland will present a textbook example of how a pathway to the top level of international rugby ought to look.

The Waterford man will make his Test debut in Saturday’s meeting with Canada in the Aviva Stadium. He will be flanked by as much experience as you could hope for in a contest like this: his provincial captain Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien welcomed back into the fold after long spells out with injury.

Jack O'Donoghue O'Donoghue breaks for the line against France in the 2014 U20 World Cup. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

O’Donoghue’s name has been in and around the squad for longer than just the days since his call-up though, as Schmidt points out.

“Jack has been running out with us for some time, probably the best part of a year.

“I’ve seen Jack since he captained the Under 20s in the junior World Cup in Auckland and was impressed with him as a player and a potential leader.”

There will be more to come from O’Donoghue beyond Saturday, but Schmidt places a great deal of stock in experience. So with most minds outside the matchday 23 turning towards a return clash with the All Blacks, all eyes will be on O’Mahony and O’Brien. The pair will play together for the first time since the World Cup win over France with both hoping to force their way back into the first choice back row.

Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Schmidt calls Saturday’s captain and the Tullow Tank ‘the ideal mix’ to help O’Donoghue find his feet. However, after Munster and Leinster’s finest flankers were left out of the trans-Atlantic trip to take on New Zealand, the Kiwi will want to see the tell-tale signs of technique and gameplan nous rather than an all-conquering rampage.

“I don’t want them too frustrated, but I want them just focused and ready to commit to what’s best for the group and that’s what they’ll do.”

Schmidt spoke in detail about how tempted he was to bring and play one or both of O’Mahony and O’Brien last weekend, but trusted instead in the fitness of Josh van der Flier, who was part of an exceptionally good breakdown effort from Ireland.

“He had all the mileage under his belt, he had the experience of being with us before,” said Schmidt.

“We were really confident that Josh could deliver and that Jordi (Murphy, who started but suffered an ACL injury after 25 minutes) could as well and I think they both did a really super job sharing that load at number seven.”

Billy Holland Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There was a similar sentiment from Schmidt when describing the qualities of Billy Holland before he makes his Test debut at the age of 31.

Blood, sweat and tears are not enough. There must be brains on top of all that:

A lot of what Billy delivers is quality workrate. Some people produce workrate but his is quality workrate.

“He’s been accurate, he’s astute in the lineout without being a towering man himself (Holland is 6’4″), he’s very astute and that allows him to be very effective. He’s been in camp a few other times and we’ve always been impressed with how quickly he picks everything up.”

Though coming up to Carton House this week as provincial team-mates, Holland and O’Donoghue have followed remarkably different pathways to the biggest stage.

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Sean Farrell

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