Joe Schmidt: November Series will be a trial run for Ireland’s new captain

The Kiwi was in upbeat form after overseeing his first training camp as head coach of the national team.

Joe Schmidt addresses the media at Carton House.
Joe Schmidt addresses the media at Carton House.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IRELAND COACH JOE SCHMIDT has revealed he is no closer to deciding upon the Irish captain after the culmination of a two-day training camp in Maynooth.

The first question Jamie Heaslip, the incumbent captain, was asked when he faced the media at Carton House this afternoon was if he would be staying on in the role. The Leinster back-row revealed that the topic had not been broached between the players and coaching staff. Schmidt backed up Heaslip’s assertions.

He told “We haven’t spoken about it at all. That’s because, at the moment, John [Plumtree, forwards coach] is recently in. We’ve been talking about what each player brings, and the strengths and weaknesses of different players. John virtually was just in and we were immediately looking at the selection of players.”

The Kiwi and his newly assembled coaching staff have been visible at RaboDirect Pro12 games in Ireland since the season begn. Schmidt admitted that he may not always have been following the path of the ball.

“We needed to watch individual players for 20 minutes,” he said, “to see him working away from the ball, positioning himself. Looking for the unseen things that you don’t see on footage. Then, looking back at footage so we could be as thorough as possible.”

imageIreland’s leading captaincy candidates: Jamie Heaslip and Paul O’Connell. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Heaslip and Paul O’Connell, flanked by Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw, were the senior players chosen to speak to the media. Schmidt told certain inquisitive minds not to read too much into the absence of other likely captaincy candidates, such as Brian O’Driscoll and Peter O’Mahony. He said:

That’s part of the conundrum. For me, I’m getting to know some of those people and some of those people I know really well. Any of those guys you mention — and Rory Best has also been a guy that’s had a leadership role — they add genuine value. So, to try and make a decision at the moment is really difficult at the moment.”

Schmidt said the final captaincy call would be collectively made between himself, Plumtree, backs coach Les Kiss and team manager Mick Kearney. Irish rugby fans can expect to hear who will be leading the country out against Australia and New Zealand, and possibly Samoa, after the first full week of training is completed in early November.

He added, “For me, its good to have clarity around the captain. The sooner that clarity is established, the better. Its also a pretty important decision and we want to get it right.

“At this stage, my thought is that it will be a captain, probably, for the Guinness Series because we’re just learning. Having four weeks together, we’d learn a little bit more about it and so would the captain.”

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Patrick McCarry

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