Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'We don't want to just be handing out caps' - Ireland stick with autumn squad

Simon Easterby is confident Ireland can remedy their lineout issues.

IRELAND ASSISTANT COACH Simon Easterby says it’s important for them to back the players they selected in their autumn squad ahead of this Sunday’s clash with Georgia in Dublin.

Head coach Andy Farrell has called up 24-year-old Ulster loosehead Eric O’Sullivan to the squad for this weekend’s Autumn Nations Cup fixture at the Aviva Stadium after a calf injury for Ed Byrne.

However, Ireland have opted against bringing in further fresh faces for the meeting with Georgia, who are ranked 12th in the world.

“It’s always a question that gets thrown around but it’s really important that we select the players we originally picked,” said Easterby this afternoon when asked if Ireland had considered further call-ups.

“It’s another Test match, there are players that are going well in their provinces and putting their hand up, but there are also players who have trained really well over the last couple of weeks that haven’t had opportunities with us.

“I guess it’s getting a balance there and the squad we selected originally was a squad we felt could take us through the end of the Six Nations and into these autumn games. We felt we wanted to do that justice and probably not look to pick too much from outside the group.

“Players coming in for a week, they have got a lot to deal with and take on board. Is it giving them the best opportunity to perform if we’re asking them to come in six or seven days before a Test match?

“We just felt like the guys who we selected in the original wider squad were guys that we were looking to play in this Georgia game. There will be some experience in the team as well as some inexperience for the weekend.

“We don’t want to just be handing out caps as well, we want to make sure that guys earn the right to get selected.”

Easterby did say it was pleasing to be able to bring O’Sullivan into the squad for the first time, albeit unfortunate to lose Byrne to injury ahead of last weekend’s defeat to England.

“Eric has been doing really well up in Ulster, we’re really happy with his progress, and it’s a great chance for us to see him up close and see him work through the week.”

simon-easterby Simon Easterby is in charge of Ireland's lineout. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

As the man in charge of Ireland’s lineout, it will have been a tough few days for Easterby in the wake of that loss at Twickenham, where failings in the lineout were deeply damaging.

Asked for his view of the problems, Easterby pointed to inexperience in the Irish pack, as well as pressure from England, and Ireland’s own innaccuracies.

“We are continually trying to grow some experience and some leadership in that group,” said Easterby.

“We had a couple of young players in there, Ronan [Kelleher] making his first start at Twickenham and he has done really well across the board over the last six weeks.

“We had a number of challenges in there from the opposition, as well as making sure that we get our own drills in order. There is probably a combination of things throughout the week.

“We felt like we had a good preparation but it’s very different preparation and then when the pressure comes on and the challenge is laid down, that’s when we find out a little bit more about players.

“We probably needed to strip back a little bit some of the options that we had, and we will look to implement those over the next couple of weeks.

“We’re also on a journey with this lineout group, it’s a new group. We’ve got a couple of inexperienced younger guys in there who we feel are learning every week and they’re growing in their roles. It takes time to grow combinations and get those things right.

“England, in terms of where they’re at in comparison to where we’re at, they have far more experiences that they’ve gained over the last couple of seasons as a forward pack compared to some of the guys in our group. That’s all part of the building process that we’re trying to get to.

“There’s definitely a couple of fixes and alterations we need to make but I don’t think it’s doom and gloom. We’re really confident with the guys we’ve selected and the guys that took the pitch on the weekend.”

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