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Schmidt backs Roux for set-piece impact and compares Olding to Gordon D'Arcy

The Ireland head coach outlined what he expects the new faces to bring on Saturday.

Rory Keane reports from Johannesburg 

JOE SCHMIDT HAS backed Quinn Roux to make a big impact on the Irish set-piece ahead of Saturday’s second Test against South Africa at Ellis Park.

Schmidt signed the 124kg lock from the Stormers in 2012 during his time in charge at Leinster but, after two injury-ravaged seasons, Roux moved to Connacht to reinvigorate his career.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt sprung a number of surprises today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Speaking at Ireland’s team base in Johannesburg this afternoon, Schmidt voiced his admiration for Roux’s scrummaging power on the tighthead side.

“I think one of the things for us is Quinn very much a very good set-piece player,” said Schmidt. “I think in the scrum and lineout, I think he’s very proficient in those two areas and he’s trained incredibly well since he’s been with us.

“I know Quinn very well from having coached him for two years previously and during those two years he struggled to get real rhythm because he had a number of injuries and every time he got back playing, he unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to have a succession of games that would have allowed him I think to progress.

“We’ve seen a bit of that progress in Connacht this season and I guess we’re challenging him to progress a bit further in that international arena. “

Debutant Roux is one of five changes to the Irish starting XV which secured a stunning 26-20 victory against the Boks in Cape Town.

Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Rhys Ruddock have all come into the reckoning but Tadhg Furlong arguably faces the most daunting task of all the newcomers this weekend.

The Leinster tighthead replaces his provincial team-mate Mike Ross and will be tasked with taming the ‘Beast’ Tendai Mtawarira at scrum time.

“Yeah, it is a big day for Tadhg,” Schmidt explained.

Quinn Roux Roux is set for his Ireland debut. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I know that he and Quinn and Iain Henderson on that axis at the scrum will be working incredibly hard to be as combative and as effective as possible. Tadhg is another guy who has trained incredibly well. Tadhg has spent a fair bit of time with us without getting a massive amount of time with us out in the actual pitch.

“He started the season with us at the World Cup, he’s remained with us throughout the season and so it’s a huge ask for him, but we wouldn’t do it if we weren’t confident that he can step up and deliver something. It’s a whole different realm stepping into the lion’s den.”

Schmidt has also given a big vote of confidence to Connacht front rower Finlay Bealham after his strong finish to the season with Pat Lam’s Pro12-winning outfit:

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“Yeah, again he’s played a lot of tighthead for us or he’s filled in a lot at tighthead in training for us as well as loosehead.

“He’s played a lot at tighthead for Connacht, particularly once they lost Nathan White through injury, and he probably pushed his way past Rodney Ah You who had some time with us in the past as well so for him to have done that and to have trained really well with us it’s great for us.”

Ulster centre Olding, who will be winning his third Ireland cap, will link up with Robbie Henshaw in an another new-look Irish midfield.

While Schmidt was quick to praise Luke Marshall’s impressive display at Newlands, he felt Olding’s potential as an explosive, playmaking inside centre was worth closer inspection this Saturday.

“I think he’s maybe a little more in the Gordon D’Arcy mould, a guy with some footwork and some ability to play as a second receiver although I thought Luke Marshall did incredibly well doing exactly that and that was one of things that attracted us to Luke in the first place.

Stuart Olding Olding gets his starting chance at inside centre. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He was ending up as a first receiver often in the way Ulster were attacking (this season).

“We think Stu can bring a little bit of the same, the fact that he’s a left footer as well. That brings a little bit of a different dimension technically because we’d normally have a number of left footers in our backline but without Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Simon Zebo, we’re very right-foot dominant so there’s a few different things that he can bring to the equation.

“The other thing is Stu is a tough character. Mentally, he’s very tough. He stays in the game very well and I think he punches above his weight just as Gordon D’Arcy did.

“They’re quite similar in that they both distribute smart, opportune passes when it’s on, and they carry when it’s the right thing to do and they work hard away from the ball to try to get back into positions where they can get back onto the ball.

“It’s a huge challenge for Stu up against Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe again with the same midfield combination. As I said earlier, we’re under no illusions that combination will be a lot more of a threat this week because they would have had a little bit more time together.

“They don’t play their Super Rugby together so, after a Test together, they’re likely to gel a little bit better together and our challenge is to just to get as get Stu and Robbie to gel as best as we can.” 

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