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Schmidt to consider Ireland selection options for six-day turnaround to Cardiff

Dan Leavy or Sean O’Brien could come into the mix after an injury to Josh van der Flier.

A SIX-DAY TURNAROUND to this Saturday’s clash with Wales means Ireland will have what Joe Schmidt termed “a very truncated week.”

Speaking after yesterday’s 26-14 victory over France in Dublin, the Ireland boss said he was unsure whether his squad would take to the training pitch on Tuesday or Wednesday as the face into their bid to prevent Warren Gatland’s Welsh side from securing a Grand Slam.

Joe Schmidt before the game Schmidt has a shortened week of preparation. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The narrow recovery timeframe may also prompt a handful of changes from Schmidt on the selection front, even if Ireland delivered their most cohesive performance of the championship against les Bleus, sullied only by conceding two late tries.

Rob Kearney was a late withdrawal from the game due to calf tightness but Schmidt said the fullback has “a really good chance” of being fit to feature against the Welsh, although Josh van der Flier is a greater concern after suffering a leg injury versus the French.

If van der Flier is ruled out, the make-up of the starting back row in Cardiff will be of major interest. The trio of Jack Conan, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander performed strongly yesterday after the starting number seven had been replaced by Conan, with Stander moving to the openside.

Schmidt name-checked Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy as possible options at openside against Wales, while he also hinted that hooker Sean Cronin could be set for a return to the squad after being omitted for round four.

“There’s a couple of guys who have been in and around the squad,” said Schmidt yesterday. “Obviously Dan Leavy was up in Belfast, Rob Kearney should be right to train on Tuesday.

“Sean O’Brien, Sean Cronin, Rob Herring – there’s a number of guys who we’ll get back this evening and go through and have a look at how they all shape up.

“There’s obviously a few guys in the backs as well but the midfield combination worked well today with Bundee [Aki] and Garry Ringrose, those guys have played together a fair bit.

Dan Leavy and Javier Ortega Desio Dan Leavy hasn't featured for Ireland in this Six Nations. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“The back three, certainly the wingers, have been one of the more consistent fixtures so far in the Six Nations.

“Andrew Conway came in late, but whether we have a look at freshening that up. And front-row wise, Andrew Porter was with us in the warm-up.

“Tadhg Beirne, we’ll see how he is on Tuesday but there’s those sorts of options that we’ll just have a look at.”

With a relatively condensed timeframe to prepare, Schmidt said Ireland won’t be wasting much of their week considering the prospect of denying the Welsh their Grand Slam in Cardiff. 

“It’s funny, people might talk about that but for us, we want to finish as well as we can in the Six Nations,” said Schmidt. “It’s less about where Wales are positioned.

“We know that if we could get a win we would go past them in the championship on the ladder at the end of the day, but at the same time, it is just another game.

“And as boring as it is, in terms of a six-day turnaround you can’t really think too much about championships or anything else.”

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Murray Kinsella

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