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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020

'They reacted unbelievably': Schmidt praises trio for staying with squad

Kieran Marmion, Will Addison and Jordi Murphy have trained with Ireland this week despite missing out on the World Cup squad.

Marmion in training at Carton House today.
Marmion in training at Carton House today.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

JOE SCHMIDT HAS praised the character and professionalism of Kieran Marmion, Will Addison and Jordi Murphy, who have all put their individual disappointment aside to remain in camp with Ireland this week.

The trio fell on the wrong side of some incredibly difficult selection calls for Schmidt and were informed of the bad news by the head coach on Sunday, shortly before Ireland’s final 31-man World Cup was announced.

Marmion was perhaps unluckiest to miss out having been a trusted performer for Schmidt in recent years, while Murphy was also deeply unfortunate to be edged out in the competitive back row department.

Ulster’s Addison had made a late push for selection after rebounding strongly from back surgery but ultimately his lack of recent game-time saw Schmidt opt for Munster’s Chris Farrell as a fourth option in midfield.

Despite the bitter disappointment, the trio reported for duty at Ireland’s Carton House base on Monday morning to train with the squad ahead of Saturday’s final warm-up outing against Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

While Devin Toner, Tommy O’Donnell, Ross Byrne, Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Dave Kearney will return to their provinces, Schmidt was keen to keep Marmion, Addison and Murphy in camp as they are likely to be the first options should Ireland suffer any injuries.

“They reacted unbelievably,” Schmidt said this afternoon. “I spoke to them on the phone, I said ‘look, this is not the phone call you want to get, you have fallen outside the squad and there are some narrow margins’.

“We discussed a few game-related things with them. Those three guys as young men would be brilliant in the squad, they would contribute without a doubt, but we can only have 31.

joe-schmidt Schmidt during today's session at Carton House. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s very easy for some people on the sidelines to throw barbs on who missed out, you can only find 31 spots, three guys, unbelievably good.

“We asked them, ‘Would you come in to train Monday, Tuesday, potentially later in week?’

“They said, ‘Will be there, no problem’.

“It gives us confidence as well that if we lose someone Saturday, we could definitely lose someone in the tournament, to have them training and up to speed would be profitable for us.”

Johnny Sexton added: “It shows the mark of those guys that they are willing to come in. They know that they could be needed.”

On his decision to leave the vastly-experienced Toner out of his plans for Japan, one Brian O’Driscoll has said ‘beggars belief’, Schmidt moved to explain that the 33-year-old’s recent ankle injury meant he was physically ‘playing a little bit of catch up.’

Instead, the Kiwi opted for Munster’s Jean Kleyn as his fourth second row alongside James Ryan, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne.

“I think right at the start of the pre-season we said that everyone was vulnerable,” Schmidt explained. “But we were delighted to have the squad of 45 that we did. We felt we had a good squad and they worked hard.

Dev, he was a little bit behind the eight ball. He had that ankle injury so physically he was playing a little bit of catch up and it just meant that guys just got a little bit of a head start on him.

“But it was a very narrow decision, a very tough call. I’ve known him well for 10 years and I have a huge amount of time for him, not just as a player but as a person. He is real quality so you don’t make those decisions lightly.”

As for the call to include Luke McGrath ahead of Marmion, Schmidt referenced the Leinster nine’s superior kicking game as one of the reasons behind it.

“A thin line separated them,” he added. “I think Luke’s kicking game, the strength of his kicking game. We felt we needed to take a bit of pressure off the kicking game from our 10s, that we can mix it up between our halves and further out.

“They [McGrath and Marmion] are both incredibly tenacious. They are smart and sharp around the fringes. Both are incredibly courageous defenders and they are sharp on their feet. It was very much a dead heat in so many areas but Luke’s kicking game probably just narrowly tipped it in his balance.” 

Murray Kinsella joins Gavan Casey, Ryan Bailey and Sean Farrell with their immediate reaction to Ireland’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ryan Bailey

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