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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019

'Tommy has trained the house down': Schmidt backs Bowe's aerial ability off the bench

Jared Payne also trained well, according to the Kiwi, but will instead be deployed for Ulster’s Pro12 meeting with Zebre.

Bowe, Craig Gilroy, Dan Leavy and CJ Stander in Maynooth today.
Bowe, Craig Gilroy, Dan Leavy and CJ Stander in Maynooth today.
Image: Alice Bolger Aboud/INPHO

JOE SCHMIDT WARMLY welcomed the opportunity to name an unchanged Six Nations XV for the first time in his tenure.

The only alteration to the matchday 23 to see off France was an enforced one in the last jersey handed out, Andrew Trimble’s broken hand opening the door for another Tommy Bowe return.

“Tommy has trained really well. He’s trained the house down,” Schmidt said to explain his selection, before also referring to Bowe’s time in Wales from 2008 to 2012.

“His last couple of games for Ulster have been incrementally improving and some of the things we’ve asked of him, we’ve seen.

“It’s tough because Craig Gilroy has also been doing really well and so has Andrew Conway. But I think in the context of what Wales will bring, Tommy is so strong in the air and his experience, having played with a lot of these players in his time with the Ospreys, it was probably a good decision in this context.”

Bowe received the nod ahead of not only Gilroy and Conway, but also Jared Payne who looked in the frame to return until missing Monday’s training session. However, Schmidt signaled that Payne will be well enough to line out for Ulster’s Pro12 meeting with Zebre this weekend, and so he may well be in contention for England’s visit to Dublin on 18 March.

“He was sharp this afternoon, or this morning when he trained. That put him in the frame but he just hadn’t had enough time with us. He’ll potentially be involved at the weekend with Ulster and he could potentially still be a springboard for him to be involved in the England game next week.

Jared Payne, Paddy Jackson and Sean O'Brien Payne, Paddy Jackson and Sean O'Brien head for training this afternoon. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Robbie (Henshaw) and Garry (Ringrose) I think had a really good relationship and we’re building on that. So sometimes selection might be swayed because of the cohesion of the current combination.

“Jared’s experience, potentially even off the bench would have been handy, because he plays fullback and has played wing, as well as the midfield.

“There are things where he has contributed hugely in the past, but you’ve got to keep your rhythm in this competition. You’ve got to keep improving. We’ve got combinations we do feel are improving and we want to give them the opportunity.”

Joe Schmidt Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The rhythm of this unchanged line-up is music to Schmidt’s ears, but he is also wary that his opposite number this week, Rob Howley, has repeated his 23. And this Welsh squad will approach this game with nothing to lose and everything to prove having already come undone against England and Scotland in this tournament.

“It’s the first time we’ve been able to (name an unchanged XV in the Six Nations). When we won the Championship in 2014 and 2015 we had minimal changes week to week and we grew throughout the tournament.

“That’s a massive challenge because everyone, through the Championship tends to pick up a bit more momentum. The first game you tend to be a bit underdone and you have to pick up from there.”

Time for Ireland to hit full stride.

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Sean Farrell

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