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Schmidt set for selection headaches ahead of Wales clash

The Ireland head coach says he’s ‘got to be seen to trust the group to a degree.’

Marshall was hammered in this tackle by Duncan Taylor and Dave Denton, but recovered well.
Marshall was hammered in this tackle by Duncan Taylor and Dave Denton, but recovered well.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Updated 12.21

HAVING SPOKEN ABOUT his intention to create greater depth in the Ireland squad this season, the performances of Dan Tuohy and Luke Marshall were greatly pleasing for Joe Schmidt during the victory over Scotland yesterday.

Both Ulstermen benefited from illness to direct competitors within the Irish set-up, although Marshall may have been close to earning a start even if a stomach bug had not ruled Gordon D’Arcy out. Tuohy had the daunting task of stepping in for Paul O’Connell as late notice, but performed his duties admirably.

Schmidt feels there is still room for progress in some elements of the 28-year-old lock’s playing abilities, but was impressed with Tuohy’s display against Scotland.

I thought Dan did really well stepping in, even to the extent that he ran the line-out at the end when Dev [Devin Toner] came off and did a really good job. He managed to get a fair few tackles in and he’ll be looking for improvements to his game. That’s ideal, that’s what you want.”

With Paul O’Connell almost certain to be back in the starting line-up as captain for the clash with Wales on Saturday, Tuohy may be facing a return to the bench. Alternatively, Schmidt could opt for the eight-time capped Ulster player’s aggression and power over the set-piece excellence of Toner.

The Leinster lock performed well at the line-out yesterday in Dublin, although he will be disappointed with some of his tackling and rucking. However, the fact that a pairing of O’Connell and Toner offers Ireland nice balance in the second row might help the 6ft 11ins Meath native to get the nod.

imageTuohy [wearing the green scrumcap] gets to grips with Tim Swinson. ©INPHO/James Crombie.

At inside centre, the expected return to full health of D’Arcy offers Schmidt the option of experience against a powerful Welsh midfield, although the Kiwi points out that Marshall is not lacking in that department, as demonstrated against Scotland.

“Luke Marshall did a smashing turnover tackle there at one stage. He’s a physical kid and he’s working really hard as well. I think he’s left us with a difficult decision either way.”

Bringing D’Arcy back into the starting team appears to be the sensible call with such a high-stakes game to come in Dublin against the Welsh, and the Leinster centre has been in fine form recently. However, Schmidt himself stresses that Marshall’s strong outing yesterday puts him under pressure in terms of selection.

When guys come in and step up, I’ve got to be seen to trust the group to a degree as well.”

Tuohy and Marshall stepped up in impressive fashion on Lansdowne Road yesterday, leaving Schmidt with a couple of important calls to make.

Luke Fitzgerald hopes to return to the mix this week too, but Andrew Trimble and Dave Kearney performed well on the opening weekend. Hovering in the background are the attacking talents of Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy.

Ireland’s head coach has the right kind of headaches this week.

What changes, if any, would you make to the Ireland team for the clash with Wales? Does Marshall deserve to keep his place and did Tuohy do enough to earn another start? Who would you like to see on the wings?

- Originally published 10.47

Ireland not ‘clapping each other on the back after a win like that’ – Murray

O’Connell ‘had given us really good direction in the week’ – Heaslip

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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