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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 18 May 2021
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Schmidt: Dave Kearney looked dangerous with the ball the whole time

The Ireland head coach was impressed with the right wing and tighthead Nathan White.

WE CAN SAY with some certainty that Joe Schmidt has a deep and rounded knowledge of everything that happened in yesterday’s Ireland versus Wales clash at this stage.

The same is probably true of Leinster’s pre-season clash with Moseley on Friday night, as well as Ulster’s meeting with Edinburgh in Goldenacre that same evening. With World Cup squad decisions to be made, Schmidt and his coaching team probably didn’t get too much sleep last night.

Dave Kearney Kearney got his first start of the season yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

For some, yesterday’s defeat to Warren Gatland’s side in Dublin was the final chance to impress, the last-gasp audition that may have confirmed a spot in the travelling party for the World Cup.

After Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble scored tries for Ulster on Friday and Fergus McFadden did the same for Leinster, it was Dave Kearney and Keith Earls who occupied the hotly-contested wing spots for Ireland yesterday.

Earls didn’t last the entire game, taking a concussive blow to the head, but Schmidt was pleased with his wide men.

“Dave went really well,” said Schmidt post-match. “I felt that a couple of balls in the air that he took were as good as you get, especially under some real pressure.

He looked dangerous with the ball the whole time and when you’re marking an absolute world-class operator like George North to show up pretty well is not a bad achievement.

“Keith again looked pretty good. I’m massively disappointed for him that he didn’t finish the game, because when he did hit that tackle on George North, he put him down very, very quickly which is difficult to do. Both of those guys have been working really hard.”

In the front row, tighthead prop Nathan White might have felt that he could twist Schmidt’s arm and push himself ahead of Marty Moore in the pecking order for the final 31-man squad.

IrelandÕs Nathan White White won his second Ireland cap against Wales.

Ireland’s scrum had issues under the eye of Craig Joubert, although Schmidt exonerated White of blame for what the South African referee had perceived as illegal wheeling.

“I thought Nathan White was really, really good,” said Schmidt. “At a scrum five metres out after the ball got stripped from Seanie (O’Brien) in the corner and called for a knock-on, five metres out and Nathan White is dead square.

“He’s dead square the whole time and the scrum comes up and it’s gone around the corner. I guess if you have a look at that, I’d question the angle of the loosehead (Paul James) and I’d question the feed. But again, those things happen and you’ve got to rebound from them. Nathan came off and he apologised to me.

It’s really hard when you’ve got a player who I thought did a really good job apologising for staying square. Inevitably we’ve got to rebound from that, he’s got to rebound from that, he’s got to make sure he keeps his confidence and stays in the frame.”

Aside from those looking to force their way into the squad itself, there were a handful of men who probably felt they had been given an opportunity to impress upon Schmidt their candidacy for a starting berth in the biggest World Cup games.

Devin Toner has been a totemic figure for Ireland in recent seasons, but the performance of Iain Henderson in the second row yesterday means the competition remains fierce.

Iain Henderson Henderson scored an excellent try for Ireland. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He had a really big work rate,” said Schmidt of Henderson. “He made a number of tackles and a few times when we needed to get guys up into a chase line, he was pretty prominent a few times there as well.

“I think Iain has continued to make progress, but Iain’s been a pretty important part of our side for the last two years and we’d expect that that will continue. He’s a young man who is a good athlete and we’re hoping he’ll continue to make progress in that manner.”

There were negatives mixed in with some of those positive impressions from the players mentioned above, as well as from Ireland as a team. Schmidt will have been weighing those up through the night with his trusted coaching team.

We may have to wait until Tuesday to learn which way the Kiwi head coach has decided to go with his squad, but we can be certain that the process of getting there will have been thorough.

To be honest, I need to take some time,” said Schmidt yesterday. “I’ll work my way through the game. There’s two parts to it: you look at what the collective are doing and what we need to improve going forward to England and then on to the World Cup.

“But at the same time you’re looking at individuals and how they contributed and trying to be as forensic as possible about that so you can make the best judgements possible about the levels of performance that each player has provided.”

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Murray Kinsella

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