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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 25 June, 2019

Schmidt's Ireland in a good place for short break before England build-up

Ireland trained against Connacht at an open session in the Sportsground today.

GALWAY WAS TREATED to a taste of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland today as the Kiwi head coach and his players finished their short training camp in the west with an open session at the Sportsground.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt led a session against Pat Lam's Connacht today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tommy Bowe watched the workout against Pat Lam’s Connacht in his tracksuit, merely workload management we’re assured, while Mike Ross left the pitch earlier than his teammates for much the same reason.

The notable absentee was number eight Jamie Heaslip, who will miss the England clash on 1 March due to his back injury. Johnny Sexton, meanwhile, was in France training with Racing Métro ahead of the Top 14 clash with Clermont on Saturday evening.

Still, as the majority of Schmidt’s men head away for a much-needed physical and mental break, the squad is in good shape. After two wins from the two opening rounds of the Six Nations, morale is in a happy place too.

Many of Ireland’s Six Nations squad will play for their provinces this weekend, Munster’s Keith Earls among them. The fact that he was present in Galway even today might suggest that Schmidt wants the 27-year-old to keep his eye in with Ireland as clashes with the English, Wales and Scotland remain.

Luke Fitzgerald and Dave Kearney featured at various stages of the session, although there was no sign of Felix Jones. Jordi Murphy lined out at number eight, while Ian Madigan was the out-half in Sexton’s absence.

Hints everywhere, or nothing concrete at all. The feeling is that Schmidt is likely to avoid major changes to his match day squad for the meeting with England, but assistant coach Les Kiss was giving us little to work with.

Paul O'Connell poses for pictures with fans Paul O'Connell poses for a selfie with an Ireland fan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Some players will go back [to their provinces] and play this weekend, so we’ll look at that,” said the Australian after the training session in Galway.

“Obviously continuity can always be something of benefit, so in saying that it is good, but we’re not locked into anything at this stage. We’ve got idea about where we’d like to address some selection.

“I wouldn’t like to give too much away, but overall if we’ve got a whole group of fit guys playing good rugby for us, then we’re in a good place.”

Bowe may not have taken part in the session, but Kiss underlined that there was no injury concern there. The same applied for Ross, who Kiss pointed out had taken a full part in the competitive scrummaging and mauling blocks against Connacht’s pack.

They’re fine, it’s just managing a few things – the load on them,” said Kiss. “Some of those moments when you see guys resting it’s not just from an injury, it’s just managing the load they’ve accumulated.”

Kiss also stated that Heaslip would undergo “further assessments” early next week back at Carton House, the hope being that the 31-year-old’s recovery powers can help him make a return against Wales or Scotland.

A significant portion of Ireland’s time in camp at the Radisson Blu close to Lough Atalia since Monday evening was naturally spent reviewing the 18-11 win over France last Saturday.

Rob Kearney, Sean O'Brien and Rory Best Sean O'Brien got notably stuck into some bag drills. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s interesting when you look back at the game, there’s a lot of stuff we planned and worked to,” said Kiss of that analysis. “Some significant things did come through for us, but as it ever is for us, we were not totally satisfied on a couple of occasions.

“Defensively, to leak the try was disappointing for sure and we know we can fix those sorts of things. But generally, we managed the game pretty well and pushed it where we wanted to and if we took that try-scoring chance at 15-6, it puts the game away.

We know we’ve got a little bit of work to do to ensure that we can be more complete. It’s just the nature of the business we’re in at the moment; we’ve just got to make sure we keep working to be as complete as possible.”

Several of Ireland’s squad players get the chance to impress Schmidt in the Pro12 this weekend, while those who have racked up the minutes over the last fortnight will put the feet up.

Back to work on Monday, with an exciting test to come against England.

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Murray Kinsella

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