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Dublin: 14°C Friday 23 April 2021

Schmidt hopes to see McCloskey show his ball-playing skills in Ireland midfield

The centre will hope to hit the ground running between Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery.

JOE SCHMIDT DIDN’T beat around the bush on the subject of Stuart McCloskey after awarding him his third cap for Saturday’s clash with the USA.

There never is much grey area when it comes to McCloskey’s international involvement. With three starts in just under three years, he has been either all the way in, or out.

Garry Ringrose and Stuart McCloskey Ringrose and McCloskey share a word at training. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Against the US Eagles on Saturday (kick-off 18.30, RTE) McCloskey’s bid to settle into the mix will be greatly aided by the presence of Garry Ringrose – who arguably confirmed his status as the leading centre option available to Schmidt with last week’s sure-footed outing against the All Blacks – and the increasingly experienced Joey Carbery.

“I wanted Stu to get in between a couple of ball-players, but challenge him to be a ball- player as well,” said Schmidt of the Ulster star.

“I think we know he’s a ball-carrier, we know how strong he is.”

The head coach then pointed to the value of having McCloskey as midfield muscle with one-time Chicago Bear fullback Paul Lasike set to pose a formidable physical threat 

 ”Lasike is one of the few men in world rugby that is actually bigger than him in his face-to-face kind of positional challenge,” says Schmidt.

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Paul Lasike Lasike in training with the Eagles in Dublin this week. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“(McCloskey’s) ball-carrying will be challenged but also his ability to link and I think his ability to stay connected defensively and make some really good defensive decisions.

“I thought Garry Ringrose was outstanding last week. Not just in the tackle delivery but in linking with Bundee (Aki) and making sure that we closed down what is an incredibly difficult team to close down through that middle of the pitch.

So, those are the challenges for Stu, but at the same time we’re looking forward to seeing him deliver his strengths but challenging him on those things that we’ve seen him prove through his performances in Ulster.”

Ever wary of opposition threats, Schmidt cautioned that the US Eagles will be a tough side to break down this Thanksgiving weekend.

“It’s really easy (to move on from New Zealand win) because you’re always busy with preparation. You only have to look at some of the threats the American team have. Then you’re scrambling to get our combinations right. It certainly fills your day very quickly.

“There’s not too much referencing of last week, it’s mostly been around what we want to do, and then about making sure we’re conscious of just how good the American team is.

He adds: “Putting it into context, their win against Scotland in the summer: if you’re not absolutely on the money, then there’s a big risk for us.

“It certainly helps focus the mind, focus the training and allows you to leave behind last week, especially as it was for us.

“I did give the players an extra half a day off as a result of that… which is pretty huge.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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