Madigan as 9 cover 'wouldn't be beyond our decision making process' - Schmidt

Meanwhile, Ireland’s coach pointed to several versatile options in the front row.

THE WHISPERS THAT Ireland are considering bringing only two recognised scrum-halves to the World Cup just won’t go away.

We won’t have an answer for certain until some time after Joe Schmidt informs his players who has made the cut for his final 31-man squad on Sunday.

Ian Madigan Would you take a risk with only two scrum-halves? Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

For now, as the speculation and debate flows, there is a sense in some quarters that Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan will travel, with Ian Madigan providing a ‘break in case of emergency’ option for Schmidt.

The Ireland coach again underlined today that Madigan has not trained at scrum-half with Ireland, but did recall him having done so during the Kiwi’s time in charge of Leinster.

“He has done it in the event of emergencies during my time at Leinster,” said Schmidt.

The two guys that we used were Isa Nacewa and Ian to cover nine, so he’s done a little bit of work around nine. He certainly hasn’t trained at nine with us (Ireland), but it wouldn’t be beyond the decision making process we have.”

It may be part of the decision-making process, but the final call not to bring one of Isaac Boss or Kieran Marmion alongside Murray and Reddan would represent a risk for Ireland.

Michael Cheika has rolled the dice in that regard with his Australia squad, which features only two scrum-halves and two recognised hookers.

“I see that Mario Ledesma has come out and said that (prop) Scott Sio is their cover,” said Schmidt. “I don’t know how much hooker Scott Sio has played, but if he’s played it, why not? I guess the problem is in the fixability to give people a rest, hooker being such a specialist position.

“The same at scrum-half, but I think with someone like Matt Giteau, who’s played a fair bit of scrum-half as well as covered scrum-half, I guess that’s why you can go with two.”

While the outside back options are plentiful for Schmidt, the propping positions are providing another selection headache. Ireland look set to name only five props, with the feeling being that Michael Bent may cover both loosehead and tighthead.

Greg Feek with Nathan White, Michael Bent and David Kilcoyne The options in Ireland's front row remain intriguing. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The Leinster man starts in the number three shirt for his province tomorrow night against Moseley, although Schmidt hinted that there are potentially other versatile props in Ireland’s ranks.

Jack McGrath had a short stint at tighthead on last summer’s tour to Argentina, while Schmidt thinks his two young tightheads may offer flexibility.

“I think you just about do, but I’d say just about,” when asked if there needed to be one versatile prop in the mix if only five are brought to the World Cup.

I think that Jack McGrath is a guy that’s flipped over and survived at tighthead and that was a fair few years ago against difficult customers. At the same time, I don’t think we’d ask it of some of the more mature guys.

“But someone like a Marty Moore or Tadhg Furlong might be able to swap over and then there’s the snug fit of having Michael Bent, who genuinely plays both sides. I think he’s going to have a hit out at tighthead tomorrow night, which we’ll watch with interest and he’s had plenty of loosehead last year with Leinster.”

Could it be that Ireland bring three looseheads and two tightheads? Or is it Schmidt merely entertaining the questions he faces and firing off a few distractions? The debate rumbles on…

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