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Dublin: 1°C Saturday 28 November 2020
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Schmidt may use Barbarians clash to 'broaden' Ireland's playing base

The Kiwi head coach explains the difficulty of picking a squad for the clash in Limerick.

JUST DAYS AFTER guiding Ireland to a second Six Nations title in two attempts, Joe Schmidt jetted off to the Southern Hemisphere with his family.

A well-earned break from the intensity of international rugby, but more importantly an opportunity to get some help for his young son, Luke.

Joe Schmidt and Jonathan Sexton Schmidt enjoyed a second Six Nations win with Ireland this year. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Schmidt is back in Ireland now and put his foot down in emphatic fashion last week when addressing Matt O’Connor and Leinster’s complaints about the IRFU’s player management system.

This was the boss of Irish rugby stamping his authority all over the vocal dissent.

In terms of on-the-pitch matters, Schmidt is going over his World Cup plans with a fine tooth comb. The Kiwi is also plotting exactly how he will approach next month’s clash with the Barbarians.

Ireland face the invitational side, coached by Robbie Deans on this occasion, in Thomond Park in a non-capped match on 28 May. That’s just two days before the Guinness Pro12 final in Belfast, so it may be that Schmidt is denied the services of Ulster and/or Munster players.

Connacht will hope to have finished the Pro12 season in sixth position, but it might well be that Pat Lam’s men are involved in a Champions Cup qualification play-off game in that final week of May.

Indeed, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Leinster could finish in seventh position and instead contest the play-offs. Either way, it seems certain that Schmidt will be without at least one of the province’s Ireland-qualified contingents.

“One of the really pragmatic things was to get everyone to finish at the same time and for everyone to get the same four weeks off so that people will have had some rugby right up to that point,” says Schmidt of the timing of Ireland’s clash with the Barbarians.

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Ronan O'Gara of Ireland and Mick O'Driscoll from Munster who captained the Barbarians lead their teams out Ireland played the Barbarians in 2012, when Ronan O'Gara faced Mick O'Driscoll. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“For us it was a chance to get a little bit of continuity. You know if it is two Irish teams [in the Pro12 final] then we will have the other two. Conceivably there could be three Irish teams in that, you could have Connacht playing off in that ERC [sic] mind-wave.

“That could mean that we would just have one team, so we would work with that one team so they could finish at the same time. It was as much of that as anything else.”

It all means that Schmidt hasn’t been able to plot out a possible squad at this stage, and will not be able to until after the Pro12 semi-finals on 22/23/24 May.

As a result, the Ireland selection will convene just two evenings before the fixture in Limerick. Schmidt says he and his fellow coaches are likely to use the non-Test match to work with players they know less about.

It is why the team will come together on a Tuesday night and play the Thursday night, it is a very truncated preparation window,” says Schmidt.

“Also, because we don’t know who we are going to be able to select until after those semi-finals the previous weekend.

“One of the really good things about it is that it will be an opportunity to probably broaden, a little bit, the playing base and work with some players who we might not have had time to get to know.”

Who would you like to see Schmidt call on if available for the Barbarians clash? Which exciting young players deserve an opportunity to wear an Ireland jersey, even if it’s a non-capped game?

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Murray Kinsella

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