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Schmidt avoids Ireland cuts but World Cup squad crunch time comes soon

‘Instead of whittling down, we’ll be counting upwards to 31,’ says the Kiwi head coach.

THERE’S NO SUCH thing as cuts to a squad in Joe Schmidt’s world.

The Kiwi head coach is constantly focused on ensuring that those on the ‘outside’ never feel completely out of the picture.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt hasn't announced any cuts to his squad at this stage. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was expected that Ireland would reduce their squad numbers from 45 to somewhere around the 38 mark this week by cutting a batch of players, but Schmidt refused to confirm that anything like that has taken place.

On Tuesday, assistant coach Richie Murphy revealed that Noel Reid and Rob Herring had been released back to Leinster and Ulster respectively, though Schmidt this afternoon underlined that neither player had been ‘cut’.

“I guess technically they’re not here, but they haven’t left the squad,” said Schmidt at Carton House. “I’m still in contact with them. I know that Noel is preparing to play next weekend against Rob in the Leinster – Ulster clash (in Kingspan Stadium on 21 August).

Kieran Marmion is down to play off the bench against Castres this weekend. Again, it’s because we need players to be match fit. If we can’t provide games for them, I think next Friday and Saturday gives us a good window.

“We knew those guys weren’t going to be involved this week, but it doesn’t mean that they necessarily wouldn’t be involved in the Welsh week.

“Obviously the guys who are involved this week (against Scotland) get a chance at a higher level and therefore that’s an advantage over the players who play with their provinces, but they’re interprovincials and the level is pretty good anyway.”

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It remains to be seen if so-far unused squad players like Craig Gilroy and Tadhg Furlong – who is struggling with a thigh niggle – will get a shot against Wales in a fortnight’s time, but the impression is that their ship may have sailed.

Joe Schmidt with Jennifer Malone Schmidt with Ireland fan Jennifer Malone at Carton House today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Not that Schmidt is willing to allow that to be the picture painted. While others such as Warren Gatland have been happy to publicly announce the reduction of their squads via official announcements, Ireland’s head coach is at pains not to do the same.

With the official 31 August deadline for naming the 31-man World Cup squads still some way off, Schmidt is looking to be certain that no player gives up on their hopes just yet.

“We haven’t really whittled the squad down, we’re just trying to get game time for everyone at the moment,” said Schmidt when asked how many players were currently in his squad.

I think this will give us a pause post-the Scotland match to get the coaches together and actually start to instead of whittling down, we’ll be counting upwards to 31.

“That will involve some very hard decisions that will no doubt take some time. If we can get to 31 maybe with some tough decisions, extend that to 36, we’ll have a better idea and you’ll have a better idea when we probably pick the squad to play Wales the following week.

“Because the day after we’ve pretty much got to make a few of the decisions.”

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