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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 15 April 2021

Addison's return adds to 'incredibly hard' selection decisions for Ireland

Joe Schmidt and his coaches must whittle down an extended panel of 45 to just 31 for Japan.

WHILE THE SIGHT of Will Addison spiralling kicks downfield towards Richie Murphy at Thomond Park was a welcome one, the Ulster man’s return to fitness has only added to the selection conundrum facing Joe Schmidt.

After returning from back surgery ahead of schedule, Addison was added to Ireland’s extended World Cup training squad in Galway last week, meaning Schmidt now has a panel of 45 to whittle down to 31.

Will Addison Addison during today's session at Thomond Park. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 26-year-old, who made his debut against Italy last November, did not take a full part in this morning’s open session in Thomond Park as he is managed by the Ireland medical staff, but Addison is firmly back in contention for Japan.

Addison’s ability to cover a number of positions across the backline would make him a valuable asset in Schmidt’s squad, having already started at outside centre and fullback for Ireland. 

“Of course, yeah,” forwards coach Simon Easterby said when asked if Addison was now in the frame for selection having being left out of the original squad.

“We’ve 45 players in the squad and the way the players have gone over the last few weeks, they’re making it incredibly hard on us to whittle them down. It’s going to be tough as they’re all working really hard together and working hard for each other on the pitch.”

For the second Friday running, Ireland concluded their training week with a high-intensity workout in front of supporters as the players were again pushed to their limits by the strength and conditioning coaches.

The focus for this first block of training has been on fitness, strength and power work under the guidance of Jason Cowman and Ciaran Ruddock, with a number of players describing it as the toughest pre-season they’ve experienced.

“All pre-seasons are hard,” Easterby continued. “Preparations, the work that has been put in, has been brilliant. To a man, the players have coped and adapted incredibly well.

“We’ve put them under pressure, they’ve enjoyed some really good experiences on the pitch together and have enjoyed time away from the pitch. We’re building nicely.

“Across the board, the players have bought in magnificently. It has been a massive period of conditioning and strength and power training and all the things they need as a fundamental base to kick on and play the game we want to play.

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A view of training The players were worked hard in Limerick. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It has been a great period, and we know it’s going to get tougher and when the games start to come we’ll find out a little bit more about the players.”

After camps in Galway and Limerick, the players will enjoy a down week before reconvening at the IRFU’s new training facility in Abbotstown, where the focus will turn to the first warm-up game against Italy on 10 August. 

“I think everyone is really excited about getting out there to Abbotstown,” Easterby added.

“We’ve been really fortunate to go to Galway and use Connacht’s facilities. Here, Munster have been brilliant, we’ve had free range over all of their facilities, gym and pitch.

“Obviously, in Carton House the first couple of weeks. We feel like we’ve had a good period in different venues but it will be exciting to go to the national centre and hopefully, we’ll get plenty out of that week before we build-up to the Italy game.

“That game is obviously around the corner and then things start to become tougher in terms of us having to make some decisions on selection and who out of the squad gets those opportunities to perform over the August period.”

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Ryan Bailey

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